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Oddly Small Organization
aka: Oddly Small Organisation

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"We're the Robot Mafia... The entire Robot Mafia."
The Donbot ("surrounded" by his two goons), Futurama

When someone mentions the size and strength of an organization you start to contemplate the far-reaching impact they must have and the hundreds, if not thousands of members needed to run it. They may be shadowy, mysterious, known for their unique and quirky members, and the organization has a reputation for being prevalent for having influence in corporations and governments... except we never see any of that – at least in terms of employees. Whenever these guys show up, it's just the same group of misfits we know and love. On the rare occasion that there are more of their number in existence, those characters never last. They simply show up and then disappear, with a few cameo appearances in the future, but still not enough for it to break our Fridge Logic.

It is possible that the organization is so secretive they deny their own existence, or claim to be the Office of Agriculture and Land Management. Thus the individuals you see and interact with are just the agents they want you to know about. Similarly, there may be Management and a few agents, but all their assets don't have a clue who they are actually working for.

A result of having an Economy Cast. Ghost Extras are for when more people are seen but serve entirely as window dressing to have someone walking in the background. See Quirky Miniboss Squad and Suspiciously Small Army for a Sub-Trope of this in Video Games. If one person purportedly has multiple roles in the organization, there may be New Jobs As The Plot Demands. Can be justified if the few members there are is each a One-Man Army.

See also The Main Characters Do Everything, which is related if there are no extras in the background, and Critical Staffing Shortage. May be a result of the characters being an Eternal Employee who is Always on Duty. Also compare Club Stub. Two-Teacher School is a special case for school-based stories where the adult staff is severely limited to keep the focus on the students. A Skeleton Government is when a seemingly large city has an oddly small number of officials working for it.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Team Rocket in Pokémon: The Series (less so in the games), of which we only see the two human idiots and Meowth, the beleaguered boss, and the rival group of agents. This gets subverted in the movies and some more dramatic episodes when Team Rocket show themselves to actually be the large, well-equipped criminal organization that Jessie and James are ruining the reputation of. Wild Mass Guessing goes that the main reason they keep the trio around is to provide Obfuscating Stupidity. In the games, it's a genuinely threatening and large organization. Later seasons of the show have them become more competent, at one point working directly under Giovanni or his scientist Dr. Zager, but eventually they’re back on their own.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, the Spirit Worlds's cleanup squad for when things go wrong consists of one detective and any friends he might make along the way. Though this is rendered a bit moot by the manga's ending, where it was revealed that Yusuke might not have been needed as badly as we originally thought.
  • Excel♡Saga may count as a parody. ACROSS consists of Il Palazzo, Excel, and Hyatt, but has grandiose ambitions and a huge meeting area. The anime, however, included a higher authority (all of one guy who's apparently cloned himself six times plus a stunt double); they send a messenger to tell Il Palazzo that he's not doing his job right.
    • In the manga, there may not be a higher power, but the organization is larger. They have a third "enforcer" type, Elgala.
      • Excel suspects there are others working for ACROSS behind the scenes, for example, to gather the various creatures in the pit. This probably isn't true.
      • They eventually get a large workforce of people who are unaware of the organization's long-term goals and are just working for a paycheck. They don't seem to participate in any of the organization's inner workings.
  • The Hellsing organization's combatants are pretty much just Alucard, Seras, and Walter (Seras is basically still in training, and Walter is for the most part retired). Other than them, there's only their leader Integra, a dozen or so people in the round table conference, and a small squad of hired French mercenaries.
    • This was not always the case. Though small, Hellsing employed over a hundred people, all of whom were killed in about a single chapter of the manga and one episode (episode II) of the OVA by the Valentine brothers. The French "Wild Geese" mercenaries were hired specifically to replace the losses from that attack.
    • Not that they actually need more than one combatant if the one is Alucard.
  • Code Geass subverts this. From the beginning, the group that turns into the Black Knights is shown as a small terrorist cell. When the Black Knights grow, you see how much they've grown (as they get a submarine as well as many more members). They end up as the official military force of most of the world.
  • The protagonists of Knight Hunters appear to work for one. There are only a handful of Kritiker agents the team don't already know about, and most of them have distressingly short life expectancies. Their opposite numbers are rather better staffed, but most of their evil plans still appear to rely on a Quirky Miniboss Squad with a nasty case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
  • Naruto:
    • The Akatsuki, a sinister organization of Black Cloaks with only 10 members (actually nine, since Orochimaru absconded with their membership ring). They seem to find replacements for lost members pretty quickly, but they never send out minions to do things, instead sending out two of their number to accomplish any task. Even their accountant is a powerful fighter and formal member of the organization — apparently they don't trust weaklings with money or something. Made worse by the fact that many of their members are constantly having arguments and trying to kill each other.
      • Sasori actually had several agents working under him, including Kabuto and the two men who were turned into duplicates of Kisame and Itachi, Pain had a small country at his disposal, and Kakuzu had numerous ties to collect the money for the organization. So while they have a limited number of full members, they certainly are able to have their own henchmen, widening their potential scope considerably. Still, they seem to handle most of their affairs personally, though it doesn't hurt that the combined power of the Tailed Beasts they're capturing would give them enough firepower to demolish entire nations.
    • Akatsuki's status as this is fully averted in the Shinobi World War arc; Tobi fields an army of 100,000 White Zetsus, which are supplemented with an army of legendary ninjas resurrected by Kabuto.
    • This also originally applied to most of the clans of Konoha, besides the Uchiha and Hyūga, until the Invasion of Pain arc and those following it, where we saw members of the Akimichi, Nara, Yamanaka, Aburame, Sarutobi, and (maybe) Inuzaka clans who were not directly related to the main cast, some of whom have provided vital combat support to the main cast in the Fourth Shinobi World War.
    • Also, the Konoha council that advises the Hokage currently consists of two elders, though there might be more members than what we normally see; when the village thinks it needs to appoint a new Hokage, the group assembled also included the Fire Daimyo and his advisors/nobles, plus Danzo, Jōnin Commander Shikaku Nara and someone from ANBU.
  • There are two examples in Death Note; both are probably justified. First, L's task force consists of himself, Watari, five of the main police officers and later, Light. The original organization had quite a lot more members, but they were afraid for their lives, what with the whole Kira thing, and L did not want to reveal his face to a large group of people. The second, the SPK, also started off with a lot of members, but Mello offed all but Near and three smart enough not to reveal their true names to Mello's mole, which kind of put a damper on things.
  • The Bait-and-Switch Credits of Blue Seed seems to indicate that the Terrestrial Administration Center has Black Helicopter fleet and a navy, among other things. Some episodes, they seem to only have couple of The Men in Black, a van, and one woman with a bazooka.
  • Likewise, despite being very well-financed in the original Gatekeepers, AEGIS was supposedly a worldwide organization; with Japan being just the Eastern outpost. By the Darker and Edgier sequel, there were about five members left, though given the mood of the sequel that may be more a case of things getting worse.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
    • The Doma organization in Season 4 of Yu-Gi-Oh! apparently consists at the beginning of the season of Dartz, Rafael, Amelda/Alister, Varon/Valon, Grimo/Grerimo, and, at one point, Mai, and no one else. Haga/Weevil and Ryuzaki/Rex were briefly members, but they didn't last long. And its members lose their souls one at a time over the course of the season.
    • Before, we have Noah and his (actually Gozaburo's) group, the Big Five.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Kagemaru and the Seven Stars Assassins (Seven Shadow Riders in the Dub). It doesn't help that they have two incompetent and harmless members and another member who isn't that strong.
    • The Dark Signers from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's are five duelists. Then Bommer/Greiger joins them after Devack lost to the two Tagalong Twins, but he loses to Crow who wasn't even a Signer at that time. When all six Dark Signers are defeated, Rex Godwin became the last Dark Signer.
      • Yliaster has only three members: Placido/Primo, Lucciano/Lester, and Jose/Jakob. Then they fuse into one being.
    • The Barians, the villains of the second season of Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, are supposedly the representatives of an entire extradimensional race that are the enemies of the Astral World. However, only seven of them (called the Seven Barian Emperors) tend to do much, and there were only five at first: Durbe, Alit, Misael, Gilag, and Vector. The remaining two, Nasch and Merag, were actually Shark and his sister Rio in their past lives; they were recruited into the group later. They did have a few allies like Mr. Heartland and the Fearsome Four, Black Mist (who double-crossed them) and were ultimately revealed to be under the sway of the true ruler of the Barian World, Don Thousand. Later on in the series, it becomes apparent that there is indeed a Barian race; it's just that being Energy Beings, they don't tend to appear often.
  • Jackal, the evil organization that created the eponymous anti-hero Ratman, is this. There are the three Mizushimas (the grandfather and the two sisters), the protagonist, and a scattered number of Jackies. That's it. In fact here is a picture to show their entire organization.
  • In MegaMan NT Warrior (2002), the bane of Dentech City bent on causing the collapse of society, World Three, has precisely four members. However, this is Truth in Television for terrorist organizations (see below) albeit not to that extent.
  • Greed from Fullmetal Alchemist is pretty vocal about wanting absolutely everything in the world for himself, yet he NEVER gets more than a handful of followers. This turns out to be for a reason: what he desires is something else.
  • In the third Rebuild of Evangelion film, NERV seems to consist entirely of Gendo, Fuyutsuki, Rei, and Kaworu, with the majority of the operation being automated. To be fair, the only people in the world at this point either work for NERV or work on the AAA Wunder and try to destroy NERV.
  • The Lupin III franchise seems to play this straight. In the Manga, there was implied to be a large number of additional people working for the Lupin family, and the film even says that they're an extremely large organization. Mooks were featured in a few Green Jacket episodes, but from Red Jacket onwards, the "Lupin Empire" seems to contain only three or four people, depending upon Fujiko's interests, with the occasional hired help. The perpetual crew always outnumbers the "empire" characters, even when it would make sense to gather more help.
    • While some franchise entries like The Castle of Cagliostro show Zenigata leading a squad of police, more often he's working the Lupin case alone or with whatever cooperation he's able to wrangle out of local law enforcement. One wonders if the real reason he can't catch Lupin is that it's one against four.
  • In Sands of Destruction, the World Destruction Committee consists entirely of two people and a teddy bear; Before the second half of the first episode, it was only one angry human woman. Admittedly, it was a name that her enemies made up to demonize her, but she ran with it because it's intimidating.
  • Bleach:
    • Soul Society seems to be made up of only a couple thousand Soul Reapers, with just a few dozen of them being capable of fighting the higher level Hollows and Arrancar. The numbers seem downright bizarre when one considers that they're the only known force that maintains the balance of souls throughout the entire world. Later materials, particularly Burn the Witch!, would reveal "Soul Society" as seen in the original manga was technically "just" the eastern branch stationed in Japan and there are other branches scattered around the world, but this brings into question what the hell those branches were doing while spiritual armageddon was going down with Aizen and especially Yhwach.
    • The Royal Guards have even fewer members than Soul Society's Gotei 13. They are composed of five ex-Captains, one of whom commands a separate squad. Their job is to protect the Soul King, basically the Barrier Maiden that keeps the world intact. It's stated at one point that they do not need numbers since the combined forces of the Royal Guards are more powerful than the entirety of Gotei 13 put together.
    • Aizen's "army" of Arrancar likely barely hits triple digits, since 100 and higher are apparently reserved for the Privaron Espada, the former members of Aizen's elite Espada group. When he shows up to fight Gotei 13 in Fake Karakura, he has only 18 combatants (not counting Gillian fodder) on his side — himself, Tosen and Gin, the top three Espadas, the 10 Fracciones directly under said Espadas' command, and Wonderweiss and his giant pet Hollow that spawns said Gillian hordes.
    • Zigzagged in the final arc with Yhwach and the Wandenreich. His main army, the Sternritter note , consists of 26 members, one for each letter of the alphabet. This may seem small, but it actually outnumbers the 13 Captains of Soul Society...and then we see that he seemingly also has countless Soldatnote  at his disposal at least to match the number of rank and file Soul Reapers, though very few of said Soldat actually appear, and only in situations where the main army's members are not present. Not that this inconveniences Yhwach by much, though: not only are his Sternritter very powerful, Yhwach himself is also far stronger than any previously introduced antagonist, plus he has the excuse that the more he spreads his power around, the weaker he personally is, so having fewer fighters works for him.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Celestial Being at first appears to be this, consisting solely of four pilots, six crew members on their space ship, a supercomputer and a man who's been dead for 200 years, whom the media report as being the group's leader. We later learn that Celestial Being is actually a surprisingly large, secret organization, with at least three separate groups working against each other within the organization!
  • Played for Laughs in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F', when Freeza tries to get Vegeta back on his side. He offers Vegeta command of the entire Freeza Force — which he then immediately admits consists of one other goon. It starts out larger, but Freeza wipes them out for failing to kill any of Earth's fighters when he invades.
  • In My Hero Academia, Sir Nighteye's hero agency consists of himself, two sidekicks — Centipeder and Bubble Girl — and his intern and protege Mirio. Despite taking on Midoriya as an intern during the Internship arc, Nighteye has no desire to increase the size of his organization. By the end of the arc, Nighteye is dead, Mirio has lost his quirk and Midoriya returns to school, leaving the agency down to two people.
  • Case Closed: The Syndicate that serves as the overarching Big Bad of the series only ever seems to have a half-dozen agents in circulation at any given time, even when they're making direct assaults on the FBI. To add insult to injury, almost all the agents outside Gin and Vodka (and later, Chianti and Korn) are Moles for various law-enforcement agencies. Even Vermouth will sabotage their plans whenever she feels like it.
  • At the start of One Piece, Zoro is a bit incredulous that the pirate crew he is joining consists of himself and Luffy. Luffy expresses a goal of getting a crew with ten members, which is quite small considering that most major crews number in the thousands. That being said, after the Dressrosa arc, the Straw Hats recruit many of those who helped them in that arc into the Straw Hat Grand Fleet, gaining thousands of allies who will help them when they need it.
  • Sailor Moon: The Dark Kingdom consists only of Queen Beryl, the Four Kings of Heaven and Queen Metalia. Averted in the anime where they have an army's worth of monsters.
    • Similarly, the Dead Moon Circus consisted only of Zirconia, the Amazoness Quartet, Queen Nehellenia, the Amazon Trio and Xenotime & Zeolite. Also averted in the anime where they had an army of Lemures.

    Comic Books 
  • Depending on the Writer (and continuity), The Avengers. For several years, it was standard for the team to have seven active members, and to call for reservists if the situation demanded for it. But there have been periods where the entire active roster consisted of only three or four active members.
  • Archie Comics. In the Bronze and Silver Ages, Riverdale High seemed to only have two full-time teachers on staff, despite the school being depicted as large enough to have 2 or 3 floors. The instructors are Miss Grundy for the likes of English and history, and Professor Flutesnoot for math and science classes. Less often they also had the older Miss Haggly. The school does have a principal (Mr. Weatherbee), a cafeteria cook (Miss Beazly), a custodian (Svensen), and two coaches (Kleats and Clayton). Other one-shot faculty and staff appear when part of a storyline.
  • Fantastic Four. It's all in the name: four. And despite the fact that there have been members other than the original Four over the years, they never last long, and the original roster always returns. Given that they are supposed to be as much a family as they are a team, most writers wouldn't have it any other way. Of the original roster, two of them are literally family: Sue Storm and her brother Johnny. Sue later marries Reed Richards, leaving Ben Grimm as the only one who isn't related to the others by either blood or marriage. In Grimm's case, he has been depicted as Reed's closest friend since they were in college together, and as having an unrequited affection for Sue. The Richards kids treat him as an Honorary Uncle.
  • The Hellfire Club in X-Men. Although presumably they have tons of members and are incredibly pervasive, we really only ever see four or five of them. They make up for it with a crapload of nameless henchmen, many of whom can be found at the ends of Wolverine's claws. Somewhat justified in that the X-Men are usually facing the Inner Circle of the club; the regular members are just normal but extremely wealthy members of society. This is how Archangel (who much later declined an invitation to the Inner Circle), Tony Stark and Candy Southern got their membership.
  • Judge Dredd: The Judges of Mega City One are huge compared to modern police forces, but they have to patrol a city that literally covers the entire East coast of the United States. The exact numbers vary over the course of the series but there are thousands of citizens for each judge at any given time. It isn't helped by the fact that nine out of every ten recruits fail the Training from Hell and the casualty rate exceeds that of the average war. It is a running theme in the series just how outnumbered and outgunned the Judges are.
  • The Enclave is a group of Well-Intentioned Extremist scientists dedicated to world domination that consists of only three members. (It originally had four, but Jerome Hamilton was killed in one of their earliest endeavors.) This doesn't mean they aren't a threat, however. Their greatest success (or failure, depending how you look at it) was creating the being who eventually became known as Adam Warlock.
  • Ultimate Hawkeye refers to an early incarnation of S.H.I.E.L.D. as "You (Nick Fury), me, and a drinks tab trying to take down the Soviet Union."
  • Following Secret Invasion, S.H.I.E.L.D. was decommissioned and replaced by HAMMER. Following Siege, HAMMER was decommissioned and Steve Rogers, former Captain America, was appointed as the new Director of National Security. He seems to have no actual agency to direct. He seems to rely on the services of Sharon Carter, Maria Hill, and Victoria Hand to liaise with the various Avengers teams. Given that he's Steve Rogers, does he really need an organization?
  • The G.I. Joe team once asked for the aid of a man named Spigou of the resistance in communist Borovia. When the mission goes sour, Stalker asks Spigou where the rest of the organization is. Turns out Spigou is the whole thing. Spigou is then killed.
  • The Trust from 100 Bullets seems to have the number of members you'd expect a large crime syndicate to have. The problem is that the Trust isn't just supposed to be a large crime syndicate, it's supposed to be an ungodly powerful Ancient Conspiracy that pervades every aspect of government and crime in the North American continent. The reader never sees how they manage to pull off stunts like gathering all the "irrefutable evidence" Graves is always giving people, or shutting down the investigation of any crime where their bullets were used.
  • The logical extreme of this trope is the Orange Lantern Corps, which technically has only one member: Larfleeze. The other "members" are just orange light constructs created by Larfleeze's power ring. Given that the orange light represents greed, it's naturally at its strongest when wielded by only one person, because anyone greedy enough to be worthy of the title of Agent Orange would be too greedy to be willing to share it.
  • The Grail in Preacher is an Ancient Conspiracy that practically runs the world, but once Starr takes control of it he seems to run it with only the help of two operatives. Justified in that those are the only two people he trusts, and he doesn't want a lot of powerful lieutenants who can oppose his claim to power. We also see the consequences of this style of leadership, as without any organised command structure holding the various Grail cells together they start drifting away and stop taking orders from Starr.
  • Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew!: A.C.R.O.S.T.I.C. had only five members (Brother Hood, Armordillo, Frogzilla, Jailhouse Roc and Kongaroo) and crime boss Fatkat had only two henchmen.

    Fan Works 
  • The Phoenix Corporation. It consists of the author and 11 "minions." Supposedly, everyone else that might have been in it, or at least connected to it, is dead.
  • The version of Akatsuki as seen in Kitsune no Ken: Fist of the Fox consists of seven members (Yahiko, Kyusuke, Konan, Kakuzu, Hidan, Monjin and Deidara) whose goal is to kill the members of the Nine Terrors for having either caused them personal harm or having caused them to lose a loved one during the 365 days of violence when the Terrors were in operation, and they are backed by a mysterious figure who provides them with financial support. Despite being small in number, their reputation is so widespread that the government actually tasks Nii Yugito, one of the Terrors who's now in their employ, to warn Naruto that they are around and will likely come after him.
  • The Conduit of Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race only seems to have four field agents at most and rarely sends more than one or two at a time. There's a hint or two that the group is bigger than what we see, but nothing to really back it up besides some robot mooks. Tiesel actually exploits this for more benefits when increased pressure from the FBI prevents the organization from hunting for more recruits.
  • Both the Power Rangers and the villains suffer from this in Power Rangers Take Flight. The Rangers are largely on their own until the US government begins backing them midway through (a change from Choujin Sentai Jetman, in which it was just the five Rangers and their commander after the Earth Ship's destruction in the first episode). For the villains, it's mostly just Trask and Dillik, and later Mainframe; Magda doesn't stick around long enough and Sasha becomes a Wild Card who often works with the other two but doesn't care for them at all.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Dalmatians: In both of Castor and Pollux's workplaces (the cannery in Dalmatians 1, and the pound in Dalmatians 2), they seem to be the only employees. It's unknown why they didn't just hire more employees for the cannery, instead of snatching puppies off the street to be child laborers.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Airheads: Ian "The Shark" seems to be the only DJ with KPPX "Rebel Radio", whereas most real-life stations will have four to five on staff.
  • In Spike Milligan and John Antrobus's post-apocalyptic play (and movie) The Bed Sitting Room, The BBC consists of just one man, because he's the only surviving member of the organization.
  • In-Universe in Billion Dollar Brain. British spy Harry Palmer is sent to contact La Résistance in Latvia only to find it consists of less than a dozen petty criminals. General Mindwinter however thinks he has 300 professionally-trained saboteurs in Latvia, ready to launch an insurrection on his orders. Turns out his agents have been sending in false reports and pocketing the money. After giving the order to start the insurrection by sabotaging missile sites and distributing plague virus in Soviet military bases, Midwinter storms across the border with his private army (unlike usual for this trope, we do see a lot of them on-screen) but it's nowhere near enough and without air cover they're massacred.
  • In Charlie Wilson's War the CIA is supplying the Afghans to fight against the Soviets but without any sort of real plan. When asked what the United States' strategy was, we get this trope:
    Gust: Strictly speaking, we don't have one, but we're working hard on that.
    Charlie: Who's "we"?
    Gust: Me and three other guys.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Monarch is now a global coalition, with a visibly far more excessive spending budget than they had in the 2014 film now that the whole world knows monsters exist, and yet their military division whom are deployed to combat the eco-terrorists and the malevolent monsters consists of... maybe a dozen, two dozen members at most?
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, from all available evidence, the Kingsmen only have a dozen field agents at most, replaced as necessary. It's indicated there's a fairly large support staff, however. Harry justifies this by explaining that the Kingsmen exist to influence world events behind the scenes rather than to try and enact sweeping change on their own.
  • Even though there are many (well, up to 26 going by the naming scheme, though the animated series also uses non-English letters as well) Men in Black, it seems it falls to two agents to take care of most serious potential Apocalypses. Or serious incidents are so common that the Men in Black must rotate.
  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: Hendricks/Cobalt has an organization that seemingly consists solely of himself and his Dragon (and as it turns out, half the time The Dragon is simply Hendricks himself wearing a latex mask). He also hires an assassin and her men for one job and kidnaps a scientist whose family he's holding hostage for another. Even counting the extended group, that's less than half a dozen people. Which makes sense, because it can be hard to find professional employees when your organization's stated goal is literally to destroy most of the world.
  • The Syndicate of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is treated like a multinational web of criminal enterprise but in reality, it only seems to be a fraction of the size that it's touted to be by Ethan Hunt. The likely reason for this is that the organization hasn't been fully formed by this point, simply being a splinter from the British government after going into business for itself under the helm of Solomon Lane. The group was originally envisioned as having access to a near-bottomless funding supply spread across several accounts in multiple nations; a database that Solomon Lane is direly trying to get his hands on. With access to that, then they will truly be able to become the premiere source of criminal activity worldwide.
  • In Monty Python's Life of Brian, the resistance against the Romans is split into innumerable tiny organizations that constantly skirmish with each other: the 'Judean People's Front', the 'Judean Popular People's Front', the 'Campaign for a Free Galilee,' and the 'Popular Front of Judea' (which has only one member remaining.) This is dangerously close to Truth in Television. It's an old, old joke that if you get two Jews in a room and propose a question you will get at least three different opinions.
  • A Most Wanted Man (2014). Gunther Bachmann heads a small organisation tasked with recruiting informers inside the Islamic community. It's stated that his group is so small because the job he's doing is illegal under German law, so it's easier to pretend a small unit don't exist.
    "Not many people know about us, and even less like it."
  • In Pagan Warrior, both King Rollo's court and the invading Viking horde seem to consist of about six people each.
  • Plan 9 from Outer Space: The entire alien fleet? Three aliens ships with, seemingly, three or four aliens inside. And the eponymous plan only succeeds in creating a mere three zombies.
  • Subverted in Quantum of Solace, when Mr. White's secret interrogation triggers the attack of an unknown associate. M responds: "When someone says that they have people everywhere, you expect it to be hyperbole. Lots of people say that. Florists use that expression. It doesn't mean that they have people in the bloody room."
  • Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins: a former cop is forcibly recruited by a secret government organization called the CURE, founded by President Kennedy to safeguard the country from all threats by any means necessary. The entire organization consists of only three people (including the new recruit) and a powerful computer (for its time). There is also an Old Master who trains Remo, but he's not officially a member.
    • The book series this is adapted from explains it better; CURE has several thousand street-level operatives and informants, most of whom believe they work for an organized crime syndicate or in corporate espionage and none of whom do more than gather information — or more commonly, copy off what they're already collecting for somebody else. CURE also maintains executive-backed authority to tap law enforcement, intelligence, and military communications and issue (forged, ostensibly from known superiors) orders to same. The very small administration and enforcement arm is meant both to expedite the one order the President retains authority to give it ("disband, commit suicide and make sure nobody will ever find any trace you existed") and make it possible to quickly but fully brief the President on just what it's been up to so an informed decision about that order can be made.
  • This becomes a plot point in Seven Days in May, as the President's staff try to uncover evidence of a conspiracy to launch a Military Coup. As they don't know how far the conspiracy spreads, they can't rely on the FBI or the military CID. However, at one point they see a high-ranking officer carrying out a reconnaissance, and realise the conspirators have the same problem—they have to keep the conspiracy small to ensure secrecy.
  • Star Wars: Both the Jedi and the Sith.
    • For the Sith: "Always two, there are. No more, no less. A master, and an apprentice.". The second one is justified. The Sith was originally a very big organization, but infighting and internal strife between their leaders led to their downfall at their enemies' hands. The only survivor was Darth Bane (not the founder of the order, which some sources claim, but still an important figure). He implemented the Rule of Two, realizing that the only way to avoid the mistakes that had nearly wiped the order out was to limit it to only a master and an apprentice from that point on. However, this doesn't mean that they can't train other Force-sensitives to padawan-like levels, especially if the Sith apprentice is trying to supplant his or her master and is training his or her own secret apprentice. Loophole Abuse is common. Some sources have the Sith more like communist cells: there are only two (or one, or three, depending on whether the apprentice kills the master before or after starting to train his own apprentice) Sith in each group at any given time, but Bane set up several independent parallel groups, each of which believed itself to be the only one.
    • The Jedi are guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, but it's a big galaxy. Even in their golden ages, there are rarely more than a few thousand Jedi and in most stories, there's considerably less. That said they tend to do a pretty good job in a One Riot, One Ranger way: if you send a Jedi to solve a worldwide dispute, they'll probably succeed.
  • In Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, The Order of the Web is supposed to be a Bangkok-wide anti-Shadaloo organization. Yet we only see three members: Gen (the "leader"), Chun-Li, and a dead vagrant Chun-Li literally stumbles across at an airport. Further enforcing the trope is the fact that the "dead" guy turned out to be a not-so-dead Gen, who set himself up as a clue to put Chun-Li on his trail.
  • The Fraternity in Wanted. For an organization tasked with keeping the world in balance, they are a pretty small group of people. Explained in the sequel video game, where the Fraternity featured in the movie is only a local branch.
  • X-Men Film Series:
    • Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants. In the first movie, it's just him, Mystique, Toad, and Sabretooth. In the sequel, it's reduced to just him and Mystique. Averted in The Last Stand, where it expands to several dozen (or perhaps even hundred) members.
    • Lampshaded in Deadpool (2016) when Deadpool shows up at the X-Mansion, only to find the same two X-Men he's been dealing with for the rest of the film:
    "'s weird I only ever see the two of you. It's almost like the studio couldn't afford another X-Man."

  • Varys of A Song of Ice and Fire is a highly knowledgeable and untrustworthy "master of whisperers," but these whisperers are nowhere to be seen. Even when questioned about his sources by a direct superior, he gives evasive answers. He almost certainly has an entire army of informers, and it's theorized that the "little birds" always telling him things are mute, literate children creeping in the secret passages of King's Landing.
  • Many of the factions in The Illuminatus! Trilogy consists of few (often, five) members, while others are more widespread conspiracies. Most importantly, the true, benevolent Illuminati, aka A∴A∴, has some five members.
  • The Good Omens witchfinders. They've dwindled down to Witchfinder-Sergeant Shadwell and Witchfinder-Private Newton Pulsifer, but apparently in their heyday, there was a whole Witchfinder Army. It is implied (If not outright stated) that Shadwell is paid by Crowley and Aziraphale, both of whom think that Witchfinders are on their side – Azriphale because he's a witchfinder, and witches are evil, Crowley because of what witchfinders do to witches once they're found. Of course, this later proves to be true of most of the organizations they consider to be on their side.
  • The Lord of the Rings makes mention of an order of wizards—of which only five exist, only three even figure into the story at all, and only two of those actually appear in person. There's a reasonable back story that the main books and movies don't detail at all: the wizards are an undercover angelic spec ops force sent by the Powers That Be. There's not more of them because (a) said Powers are still miffed, and (b) the last open attack had mountain ranges (not to mention an entire subcontinent) as collateral damage. Five is not few because Gandalf alone saves two kingdoms, spends the prequel restoring a third and expanding a fourth, and defeat his opposing number, doing more for the war effort than an ICBM would. Furthermore, it's implied in Tolkien's notes that the two "missing" wizards had been working offstage to stir up rebellion in Sauron's lands (i.e., three-quarters of the world) and prevented him from bringing his full forces to bear.
  • Harry Potter:
    • The Death Eaters appear as a rather... small organization. Depending on how loose your criteria is for what makes a Death Eater (and whether some of the unnamed Death Eaters are all different from one another), there's only about 3 dozen of them (and that's including the members that died after Voldemort's disappearance and those who were freshly recruited after Voldemort's return). There never seemed to be more than 20 or so Death Eaters active at any one time. It's not even clear how many of those we see are really Death Eaters; in the later books they frequently Imperius other wizards to fight on their side, and it was apparently widespread enough in the first war for several well-known members to falsely claim it. Later books establish that the Death Eaters were essentially Voldemort's elite (with an 'Inner Circle' above them) and the core of his forces, with an army of lesser dark wizards/hangers-on, other Imperiused witches and wizards, and dark creatures to call upon.
    • Both incarnations of the Order of the Phoenix are also quite small; the original group only had 26 members (and are said to have been outnumbered by about 20 to one), and about half of them were killed before the end. The second group is not much bigger but has the advantage of facing a much smaller enemy (the core force of the Death Eaters appears to be about 50 wizards, with the rest consisting of the coerced, the manipulated and the brainwashed, as well as minor hangers-on, who hadn't been replenished when the second Order was formed).
    • The exact size of the wizarding population is an example of this trope. But as this essay points out, assuming the vast majority of British wizard children go to Hogwarts (something outright said in the book), that means Britain's wizarding population between the age of 11 and 18 is below the 300 mark. And since that would be roughly one-tenth of the entire population, maybe one-twentieth if we allow for wizards' longer lifespans, the total wizarding population is under 10,000. Details such as the size of the Ministry and the number of Quidditch teams mentioned make such a small figure very surprising, but then, Writers Cannot Do Math. According to Word of God, there are actually 1,000 students at Hogwarts, effectively tripling the "300" figure for school-age wizarding children and therefore inflating the wizarding population to between 10,000 and 20,000. It was also mentioned that wizards would have died out if they hadn't started marrying Muggles, indicating the population has always been somewhat small and probably still is. Also note that this is just Great Britain (and maybe Ireland). There are other populations in other countries. Goblet of Fire included students and staff from two other schools. There are Quidditch teams explicitly mentioned from other countries. American witches/wizards are mentioned during the Quidditch world cup. Though the magical world would need to be small compared to the muggle population to maintain the masquerade.
  • Night Watch (Series) and Day Watch both are pretty small organizations. Although there are still enough of them to have offices in most major cities of the world. (even if with only a dozen or so Others per Watch) Justified. A.) there are only about 200 Others in Moscow, which has one of the "strongest watches" (Paris and Edinburgh Watches being the larger ones) in the world. One cop for every 20 people is actually an unreasonably high ratio. B.) As of Twilight Watch, the Watches can conscript any and all Others in the event of a crisis. The Night Watch trains all Light Others and Light Others unaffiliated with the Watch are even called 'reservists' a few times.
    • It's noted in the first novel that, when the Moscow Night Watch moved into a new building, they built three floors' worth of classrooms for newly-initiated Others. Anton notes that someone must have been very optimistic, as there are, usually, about a dozen students at any given time.
    • It's noted in New Watch that the Day Watch actually has a lot more members than the Night Watch, and there are generally about 16 times more Dark Others than Light Others. However, this is balanced out by the fact that a good number of Light Others are of a higher level, while most Dark Others are, basically, grunts. For example, the Moscow Day Watch only has one top-level Other, while its counterpart has three active members of the same level with one more in reserve. Much of the Day Watch is made up of vampires, werewolves, and low-level witches/warlocks.
    • The eponymous organization in Twilight Watch is made up of three Others, although they do employ human mercenaries to do their dirty work.
  • The other Night Watch is also pretty small: when Guards! Guards! opens, they're down to three, with an option on a fourth if anybody is insane enough to volunteer. This is thanks to the fact that the Watch is pretty much a joke position anyway. As the fortunes of the Watch have risen over the series, including merging with the Day Watch under one commander, they currently number around 150 with plans to increase to over 200. Which as Vimes reflects on several occasions, is still extremely small (and amazingly effective) for a city containing a hundred thousand souls (and ten times as many people). (Though much of the actual policing in Ankh-Morpork is done by other groups than the Watch: for instance, the Thieves Guild is extremely thorough about deterring unlicensed thieves.)
    • By way of comparison, Vimes's refounding of the Watch can be regarded as corresponding to Robert Peel's founding of the London Metropolitan Police Force, which happened in 1829, when Greater London was only slightly larger than Ankh-Morpork currently. At its foundation, Peel's force had slightly over one thousand men.
    • During Jingo the Morporkian army consisted of possibly fewer than 1,000 hastily recruited troops, as compared to Klatch's tens of thousands of veterans. Of course, the Force that actually won was even smaller (but highly trained, and much feared).
    • It's understandable that Lancre, a kingdom a hundred miles across with 200 inhabitants, would have a very small military and civil service. In fact, however, it consists of just one man: Shawn Ogg, who is also much of the palace staff. Technically there is also a border guard on the bridge into Lancre, but he lived there anyway and is a greeter more than anything.
      • It's easier to just list the government jobs Shawn Ogg doesn't perform: king, queen, queen's maid, falconer, beekeeper, palace cook and butler, although he is the assistant butler and as Mr Spriggins is quite advanced in years, Shawn ends up doing most of his work anyway.
    • Unseen University is like this as well. While we have Archchancellor Ridcully and the Bursar, at least half of the jobs are done by one of the brightest and youngest wizards — Ponder Stibbons. And, in Unseen Academicals, he uses his large number of UU positions to his advantage; he's a voting majority on the University council all by himself.
      • Not to mention that the complete staff roster for the largest, most dangerous, and most topographically complex Library in the known universe consists of one ape, who spends most of the winter months curled up under his desk wrapped in blankets. Rincewind has occasionally acted as his assistant during times when he is actually around the University.
    • The number of Witches in and around Lancre tends to vary (down to about half-a-dozen at one point, but more numerous now), but is apparently not too many, at least compared to times past.
    • By the time Moist is put in charge of it in Going Postal, there are only two employees left at the Ankh-Morpork Post Office, Mr. Groat and Stanley. (Three, if you count the cat.) In this case, its small size is justified by the Post Office not being a functioning organization: it hasn’t delivered a single letter in decades. In Mr. Groat's youth, there had been hundreds of mail carriers, office workers, and mail coach crew members on staff.
    • Supplemental materials attest that at least two of Ankh-Morpork's official Guilds comprise just one member: the Guild of Victims (a rather masochistic chap who's paid to get mugged by the Thieves' Guild in his clients' stead) and the Guild of C.M.O.T. Dibblers (founded as a tax dodge under rules which, immediately thereafter, Lord Vetinari revised to prohibit anyone else abusing them).
    • It makes sense that less important gods would have a smaller number of clergy. But there are so many Small Gods around that in Ankh-Morpork there's a single jobbing priestess who is the sole ecclesiastical representation for dozens of minor gods. Including Anoia the goddess of things getting stuck in drawers, whose star is rapidly rising thanks to Moist choosing her as one of the gods to credit with a miracle he arranged (he picked her because he liked the name).
  • The Tribulation Force in the Left Behind series, despite its grand name, is just four people. Worse, the world-conquering conspiracy they're rebelling against is also... four people (as the Slacktivist pointed out). It's actually six if you count the two who are in both groups.
  • From The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster: "just as Milo got to his feet the entire police force of Dictionopolis appeared – loudly blowing his whistle."
  • Artemis Fowl's multimillion-dollar criminal organization consists pretty much entirely of himself and his Battle Butler. Apparently, Artemis occupies himself primarily with grand theft and fraud, having greatly scaled down the family's usual enterprises in order to ensure that he can personally tend to all of his crimes (although he still makes use of his butler's and family's vast network of contacts). He also heavily invests his criminal earnings.
  • The Oz series from L. Frank Baum uses this multiple times in regard to armies. In The Marvelous Land of Oz, it's revealed that the entire Royal Army of Oz is one person, The Man With the Green Whiskers who first appeared in the original book. By Ozma of Oz, the Tin Woodman has expanded it to... 30 people, three of whom are only mentioned. Another example in the Oz books was the army formed by Queen Ann Soforth of Oogaboo in Tick-Toc of Oz, which had only 17 members (16 of which were officers) which made sense, seeing as Oogaboo itself had a population of only 50.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: For a N.G.O. Superpower capable of helping the Cretan Insurrection, destroy The Empire ships and with his own language, the Nautilus crew is small: We only see Captain Nemo, his Number Two, and two unfortunate crewmen that die in the novel. And because they have severed all contact with inhabited continents, there will be no more crewmen. Aronnax made a calculation about fewer than 60 people:
    "... Which is tantamount to saying that the air contained in the Nautilus would be exactly enough for 625 men over 24 hours."
    "625!" Ned repeated.
    "But rest assured," I added, "that between passengers, seamen, or officers, we don't total one–tenth of that figure."
  • In The Day of Reckoning, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan befriend a scoundrel who takes them to Andra, the head of the POWER party, the single organization raising questions about the stewardship of Telos. They soon find that Andra is the only member; the scoundrel helps her out but isn't a member. She'd had a few other members before who had been killed while investigating, and after that happened all of her allies save the scoundrel had deserted her.
  • At one point in the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels Koizumi says that there are only ten espers in the world, including himself (a teenage boy) but not including the opposing espers empowered by Sasaki instead of Haruhi. However, he is an Unreliable Expositor, and later novels give the espers more influence and resources than one would expect if that were the case.
  • Thanks to his habit of dispensing of anything that doesn't make him happy, the castle of King Haggard in The Last Unicorn is staffed by the king, his adopted son, the court magician, and four septuagenarian men at arms. And because they're so short-handed, every one of them (including the king and prince) have to take turns doing things like cooking, cleaning (At least until Molly Grue is hired to be cook and maid), and guarding the gate.
  • The Dresden Files: Zigzagged with the Knights of the Blackened Denarius. They consist of people bearing one of 30 silver coins, believed to be the Thirty Pieces of Silver Judas was paid to betray Jesus, which each contain a Fallen Angel that either enslaves the coins' owner or enters into a partnership with them if their willpower and mental fortitude are sufficient enough. Most of the Fallen don't get along though and some of the coins are unaccounted for, so their leader Nicodemus typically only ever has three to five of them working for him at any given time. However, the Denarians are also backed by a veritable army of human fanatics that are comparative to a small nation, so while the Denarians are few in number, their supporters certainly aren't.
  • Timmy Failure: Total Failure, Inc, despite Timmy's claims of greatness, is only operated by himself and Total. Timmy's desire to purchase the huge tower for his agency's office is out of a desire to look good, not to actually fit workers.
  • King of Kings: GaoGaiGar vs. Betterman: After Guy's return, it's revealed that while all of the Gutsy Galaxy Guard's duties and staff (apart from those left in the Trinary Solar System) had been folded into the Gutsy Global Guard, Chief Yaginuma hadn't retired as was commonly believed, but had stayed on as Chief of the Galaxy Guard. And since all the other members (apart from Mamoru and Ikumi) were officially MIA, he was technically the only remaining member of the Gutsy Galaxy Guard until Guy came back. To a slightly lesser extent, this trope still applies after Guy's return, as while Kotaro Taiga is reappointed as the Galaxy Guard's Chief, with the rest of the group incommunicado, the UN hands over the reins to Guy as "Gutsy Galaxy Guard’s Acting Chief-slash-Mobile Corps Captain-slash-only member."
  • Space Academy: Justified in Space Academy Washouts with Dark Matter that actually just consists of Alexandra Ares as well as her immediate subordinates. This is because she's an AI and the manipulation of everything from the stock market to politics can be done instantaneously.
  • The Stormlight Archive: One of the ten Orders of Knights Radiant, the Bondsmiths, had a maximum membership of three. This is revealed to be because each Bondsmith gains their powers from a specific powerful spren, whereas the other Orders are associated with a class of spren.
  • In the first Rivers of London novel, when PC Peter Grant discovers magic is real and is therefore transferred to the section of the London Metropolitan Police that deals with such things (the Folly), this doubles its numbers. Justified in that the Met likes to pretend the Folly doesn't exist as much as possible, and DI Nightingale had spend the last few decades not pushing this, partly because he thought the magic went away, and partly because this would involve making an effort to understand modern policing infrastructure, which he refuses to do. With evidence the magic hasn't gone away, and Peter enthusuastically integrating the Folly into the Met's systems properly, it expands in later books.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: One of the major worldbuilding lore is that how every single important conflict and person in western history is demigod or demigod-related despite the fact that Camp Half-Blood is heavily isolated community (which isn't help by the fact that demigods cannot use wireless divices or phones due to attracting monsters) who only has ~100 demigods at the best of times and only a small percentage of those achieve adulthood.
    • In the Egyptian spinoff series that takes place in the same universe The Kan Chronicles: An interesting tidbit is that the House of Life, a mage organization that existed since the heyday of Ancient Egypt, is actually horrifically small for a global organization. At the start of the canon the entire new generation of mages — as in all the potential initiates in the world — amount to just 24, and apparently the First Nome (the biggest of all 360 Nomes) is so short-staffed they had to resort to using these new initiates to monitor the other Nomes. Jarring since unlike the Greeks, they aren't being hunted by monsters 24/7 nor are they busy fighting apocalypses
  • The Volcano Lair in Dr. Franklin's Island actually takes quite a large staff, but other than Dr. Franklin and Dr. Skinner they're all unnamed and not distinguished at all as individuals — just a succession of nurses and orderlies in pale uniforms. Some of that is because they speak Spanish while Semi, the viewpoint character, doesn't, and some is because only the two white doctors understand the full scope of the project and keep the rest of the staff largely in the dark and away from the girls. When Semi and Miranda start their Slow Transformation in a replica of a hotel room, as soon as their changes become serious the two doctors take over their care entirely.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Played with in 30 Rock. The GE (and later Kabletown) executive hierarchy at NBC sometimes seems to consist entirely of Jack, although this is mostly because he has a large personal interest in Tracy (who is high-maintenance and a mainstay of their income) and Liz (whom he has an interest in grooming for the elite). There have been several occasions where Kenneth acts like Jack is his direct supervisor, prompting Jack to remind him that there are numerous people in between the two of them.
    Kenneth: Sir, I have a problem with my time card.
    Jack Donaghy: So, naturally, you came to me, because this company is just the two of us.
  • In 'Allo 'Allo!, we only ever see two or three members of the French Resistance and two members of the Gestapo. Both groups are actually very much over-represented, the Gestapo very much so. The large Wehrmacht presence is harder to explain though — in one episode an outing is announced "to be attended by all officers below the rank of General" — and sure enough, that turns out to be just the three regular officers. And one of them is Italian.
  • The crew of the Andromeda Ascendant. Originally supposed to be four thousand, but Hercules Captain Dylan Hunt makes do with six for several years. When the Systems Commonwealth had been sufficiently restored, extras started wandering about in the background but they were rarely important to the plot and it remained the main cast's job to fix any and all problems.
  • None of the delegations sent to Babylon 5 appear to have more than two people in them: an ambassador and an aide. Real embassies to major diplomatic postings would also have attaches, security personnel, some career foreign service officials, at least one spy (masquerading as one of the above), and the dependents of all of the above (Londo has some dependents, but they only show up in one episode; Londo and his wives hate each other, which is why they spend most of their time 75 lightyears away). They might even bring their own cooks and cleaning staff in order to make it harder for outsiders to spy on them. Either justified or made worse by the fact that they don't seem to have actual embassies, just two sets of personal quarters. In the Centauri's case, it's explicitly because the first four Babylon stations were destroyed and they fully expect the fifth to be as well, so they sent someone expendable as an Ambassador and waited almost a full year to even send him one aide.
  • Blackadder: The first series was an expensive production for a sitcom, showing the Plantagenet royal court in all its glory. The BBC slashed the show's budget for subsequent series, resulting in casts that consisted of little more than a handful of main characters and guest stars.
    • In Blackadder II, Queen Elizabeth I appears to have only three courtiers, and no royal guards (even when she calls for them).
    • In Blackadder the Third, the Prince Regent has a staff of two. He does have guards, but only two of them, in one scene in one episode (when they would've come in handy several other times).
    • And in Blackadder Goes Forth, Capt. Blackadder has only two men under his command. However, he does mention several other officers, such as Corporal Cartwright (who looks like an orangutan) and several are there in the final push. It's still a rather small number, although possibly they're all that's left after years in the trenches.
  • Breaking Bad: The show is guilty of this with The Cartel. While never named, its geographic reach and status as a dominant force in the Mexican-American narco economy (several episodes state that its revenues are in the billions) heavily imply that it's supposed to be the Juarez Cartel, which has tens of thousands of members in total and at least hundreds in every major branch. Yet in this series you seldom see more than half a dozen members in one place. For a specific example: Tuco is stated to be the leader of the Albuquerque branch. It consists of Tuco, No-Doze, Gonzo, and a handful of mostly off-screen street-level dealers that he collects fees from (of which we only ever see two former members, Krazy-8 and Emilio). Other members of his group are only implied to exist by a single line from Hank where he says "our raid netted a bunch of [Tuco]'s lieutenants." Better Call Saul shows that his cell used to have more manpower that got attrited in that series, but it was still always pretty small.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has the Watchers Council, an incredibly powerful and worldwide organization in charge of managing Slayers and fighting supernatural forces that has been in existence for thousands of years. We meet about six or seven of them over the course of the series, and a few more in Angel. By the end of Season 7, Giles is the only remaining loyal member (having been reinstated during Season 5) and there are only two other former Watchersnote  known to be alive.
  • The "others we hear about but never see" is a running joke on Criminal Minds. Whenever a character doesn't want to take a case, they'll point out that the BAU has many other teams. They always take the case, and only one of these other teams ever appears, in a Poorly Disguised Pilot for the spinoff show.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In the classic series, alien races were typically limited by how many costumes were available (although clever filming could suggest an army of Daleks or Cybermen, just with no more than three of them in shot at the same time). This gets lampshaded in "Terror of the Zygons"; the Zygons declare their intent to Take Over the World, and the Doctor snarks "Isn't it a bit large for about six of you?"
    • Similarly, UNIT basically consisted of the Brigadier, Captain Yates and Sergeant Benton. Occasionally there'd be another speaking character in there, and there'd usually be plenty of lower ranks who got shot but the command structure was basically a high-ranking field officer, followed by a junior officer, followed by an NCO.
    • The Preachers from Pete's World were the only group actively investigating the efforts of Lumic and his Cyber-Men, Pete Tyler having served as The Mole initially thought that The Preachers were a branch of The Secret Service when he broadcasted to them as Gemini: only after meeting them to realize that The Preachers consisted of three people working out the back of an electricians truck: Jake Simmonds, Ex-Cybus Industries employee Angela Price, and their leader Ricky Smith: London's Most Wanted... for Parking Tickets.
    Pete Tyler: I thought I was contacting the Secret Service, and what do I get? Scooby-Doo and his Gang? They even got the van!
    • The Shadow Proclamation is supposed to be an intergalactic authority imposing rules and regulations on the whole Universe, yet when they are finally seen in "The Stolen Earth", they consist of a handful of people milling around a lobby plus a few Judoon thugs as security. They don't even get their own planet, just a couple of connected asteroids with buildings on them. (According to Word of God, they had originally planned to show the Shadow Proclamation as a huge senate with hundreds of different aliens ala Star Wars, but the rest of the episode blew the effects budget.)
  • The Duck Factory takes place in an animation studio, yet it never seems to have more than a handful of employees. In reality, even the cheapest TV cartoon can easily employ at least a hundred people.
  • Fawlty Towers is an interesting case. The entire hotel seems to be run by Mr and Mrs Fawlty (Managers), Polly (Waitress) and Manuel (Porter/Waiter). The second series introduces us to Terry (Chef), although dialogue in the final episode of Series 1 implied they did have a chef back then, he was just The Ghost. The first episode of Series 2 also mentions another girl who's being employed but can't start until Monday.
  • In The Flash (2014), S.T.A.R. Labs, who assists Barry Allen, only consists of Harrison Wells (the director), Cisco Ramon, and Caitlyn Snow. We later meet former employees Ronnie Raymond and Hartley Rathaway, but it's still incredibly small for a research facility with a particle accelerator. Justified in that the lab is supposed to be shut down; Cisco and Caitlyn are initially just sticking around unofficially out of loyalty to Wells, and subsequently as part of Team Flash. Wells at one point lists all the people who used to work there, and who died in the accident that got it shut down.
  • In Game of Thrones, the warlock Pyat Pree is the leader of a coven called "the undying", who are spoken of as a multitude. However, no other warlocks are seen in the House of the Undying, only Pree's many, many clones.
    • The Night's Watch, responsible for defending the realm from the wildlings and treated as Serious Business by the show (if not necessarily by all of the characters), is at one point implied to consist of 50 men. Contrast the books, where the Watch is considered dangerously understaffed with a thousand members, and even after taking horrendous losses is still an army of several hundreds.
      • The Watch in the show starts at about the same level but takes more casualties over time. The writers also apparently completely forgot about the men in the other two castles after Season 4, making the population of Castle Black the entire Night's Watch. As of the end of Season 6, there are at most 30 men left.
    • The Faceless Men are master assassins from Braavos who are so renowned and feared that Westerosi nobles discuss them. All we ever see of them in the show is one man and one petite woman, and their new recruit Arya Stark. It's unclear if there are actually many more Faceless Men who all simply wear the same faces, if other members remain unseen, or if these two are really just that good.
    • Appears to have taken full effect in Season 7, with Cersei's Queenly court only having a few members, the lords of the Reach being of a number that can be counted on one hand, and no Dornish lords being seen since Season 4. Made especially apparent when a great meeting is called to discuss a truce and only Daenerys' own small court, Jon Snow, and Cersei's guard show up, despite there being seven kingdoms.
  • In later episodes of Get Smart, Control seems to consist of the Chief, Max, 99, and Larrabee, with the Chief constantly involved in fieldwork.
  • The Company in Heroes sometimes enters this territory. Sometimes they're portrayed as a large group with many teams of two agents (one super, one normal) out taking care of assignments. Other times The Company is portrayed as just Bob, his daughter, and some Indian doctor he has to coerce into being a thug because he apparently doesn't have anyone else to send on missions anymore. In the first season it is portrayed as all-powerful yet they only regularly show one character and have guest appearances by actors for the more high-ranked members. Yet in Season 2, Bob is running round doing the recruiting in Cairo as well as "kidnap missions." This makes one wonder if it is falling into disarray. This is confirmed in Season 3 where the company corridors are empty and Angela Petrelli is alone.
  • The Federal Marshal's office from In Plain Sight has four people, of which only two do fieldwork and one is a secretary.
  • In the Sci-Fi Channel's The Invisible Man, the protagonist works for a secret government agency that seems to consist of nothing more than Da Chief, his assistant, the scientist, and two (three in the second season) field agents. Lampshaded as it's apparently small enough to be passed around to become a branch of various departments of The Government. But then, The Agency is more just Darian and his handlers, and a running theme is that those in charge keep individuals in the dark to an unreasonable degree.
  • JAG: The Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy appears to be much smaller in the series than in real life, so small that Harm, Mac, and Sturgis on occasions are temporarily assigned as Acting Judge Advocate General; despite the fact that in real life there is a flag officer serving as Deputy Judge Advocate General, not to mention all the Captains/Colonels (Assistant Judge Advocate General for X) serving as heads of the various departments; although it’s supposed to be the same size as in real life, as Chegwidden in the NCIS backdoor pilot stating he has 1200 people under his command, which was the actual real-world case in 2003. Plus all the Ghost Extras.
  • Kamen Rider Kiva has the Wonderful Blue Sky Organization, a dedicated Fangire-hunting organization that seems to consist only of an Eccentric Millionaire, a token girl, and The Rivalat most. Then again, outside of The Rival, they're usually too useless to warrant more members...
  • In Lie to Me, the Lightman Institute always has people wandering around the background but only four characters seem to do any work; everyone else seems to be there to run the video cameras for them.
  • NCIS, good God, yes. The entire NCIS lab consists of one person, the morgue has two, the administration has one, and so on. No other team or lab workers or anyone are ever seen. Deconstructed in that they all work 16-hour days in order to do the jobs of an entire organization themselves.
    • There are other teams, some of which are even shown occasionally, but Gibbs' team is supposed to be the best, which explains why it's the one getting sent on most of the murder investigations. The other agents — and sometimes Gibbs' team itself — are presumably taking care of more mundane things like kidnappings.
    • There are other members aside from the NCIS Director in the administration, though the only other member regularly seen is Assistant Director Granger, who permanently oversees the Office of Special Projects on NCIS: Los Angeles. Vance himself was promoted to his position after spending time as the agency's Deputy Director. Vance also has his own number two, whose absence from headquarters is handwaved by saying that Deputy Director Jerome Craig is almost permanently on the road attending international conferences that Vance doesn't want to bother with and doesn't enjoy being in the office in the first place.
    • Abby is presumably assigned specifically to Gibbs' team; if she works on anything for anyone else we don't see much of it. This isn't very efficient (it would be much better to have one large lab for all teams to avoid duplication of equipment and to allow the more esoteric equipment to be run by a specialist in that particular piece of equipment, as well as allowing the lab to do analysis of multiple pieces of evidence at once instead of having a bottleneck because there's only one tech doing everything), but that would require a larger cast/set.
    • NCIS: New Orleans seems to consist of three agents, a medical examiner, and a forensic lab tech with no indication that it has any other personnel, to the point of the main characters being called in whenever there is a crime when they are off-duty. The NCIS office in New Orleans is supposed to be the Navy's investigative centre for the entire Gulf Coast! The weirdest part? This was actually the case for the real NCIS NO for some time, which was the inspiration for the show in the first place.
  • In Person of Interest the team initially only consists of Finch and Reese. Reese quickly recruits Fusco, a Dirty Cop, as an informant and general helper. Their small number proves to be a serious problem when they have to follow three different people at the same time and Finch has to go out into the field rather than perform his usual Voice with an Internet Connection role. In the pilot, Finch has a bunch of bodyguards and a lawyer working for him so it is possible that he employs a large number of people behind the scenes to support his operation but he deliberately keeps all that secret from Reese (and the audience). The largest Team Machine has ever gotten was during Season 3, when they had five full members (Six if you count the dog), two specialists called in on a highly infrequent as-needed basis and one independent operator who turned up whenever she needed their help. It's a pretty small team for trying to prevent every premeditated murder in NYC and its surrounding suburbs.
  • Power Rangers:
    • Power Rangers S.P.D. has the "empire" of Emperor Gruumm. Outside the three core villains, there's the Monster of the Week in the form of alien criminals who work for him by basically continuing their previously established MO but pointed in the direction he wants — always recruited onscreen (the baddie of the week was a longtime ally on two occasions) and robot grunts and pseudo-Zords sold to him by an arms dealer who will sell to anyone. (Sometimes the MOTW was using Broodwing's wares before meeting Gruumm, or even despite never meeting Gruumm.) The all-conquering Troobian Empire just doesn't seem to exist very much.
    • This also applies to the good guys in many of the PR series. Five teenagers with attitude is a small force to send against invading armies. It's often of a necessity, though — there are only so many Transformation Trinkets to go around.
    • This also applies to ones where there are organizations employing the Rangers staffed by Ghost Extras — in Lightspeed Rescue for instance, there's one captain and a scientist for an apparent command structure, and they seem to be the ones with the authority in the base, despite it being government-backed. A general who apparently oversaw the project showed up a grand total of one time, and only to "replace" the Rangers with robotic copies (who then went nuts after being fried by a lightning strike). It's at least somewhat justified in Time Force, where the titular time cops are largely based in the future, and could only send the Rangers back, and the Rangers' time vessel crashed and exploded after landing; they did, however, regularly send them their Zords and other equipment from the future. The Silver Guardians are also justified — Mr. Collins formed them as basically a PMC company to defend Silver Hills, so they'd be a bit low on numbers to start.
  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Like the manga, the Dark Kingdom consists only of Queen Beryl, the Shitennou and Queen Metaria, along with original character Mio Kuroki.
  • The Sanctuary apparently has a total of five staff members for the entire planet. Fortunately they're five hyper-competent people. It is later revealed that this is just the head branch. Other sanctuaries are shown and mentioned, although many of them are destroyed by the Cabal. Since Helen's father was the founder of the sanctuary, and Helen herself probably established a fair number of them, hers is considered the de facto head office.
  • In Scrubs it often appears that the Janitor is the only maintenance worker in the entire hospital when a hospital the size of Sacred Heart should require at least a dozen. A few episodes have suggested other janitors work at Sacred Heart but are almost never seen.
  • Space Precinct: The show never really gets into detail about how large an area or population the 88th Precinct covers, but it's got a mere six beat cops, a desk sergeant and a captain to cover the whole area. No wonder Demeter City is such a dump.
  • Spooks reduces MI:5's entire counter-terrorism operation to a team of five or six people.
  • Stargate SG-1: The US Government & Military setup Stargate Command, eventually staffing 20+ off-world teams and a significant base defence force, a large staff cadre including research scientists, a medical team, and assorted administrative sections such as a cafeteria. It is also under the command of a General. It does still follow a Ghost Extras format as we rarely see what any of the other teams are doing. The show focused on SG-1, their primary team.
    • This is referenced in the aftermath of the episode "Heroes", where the General is accused of rashly committing almost his entire command, in an attempt to retrieve a single wounded trooper. The skirmish turns into a major firefight, both sides reinforce their troops, and it eventually becomes the largest ground battle the SGC has ever fought in. The battle ends up costing the life of an extremely important, invaluable, and irreplaceable member of the non-combatant staff.
    • In the Season 1 finale, Bra'tac tells SG-1 that his "wing" will help them destroy Apophis's ship. When asked how large his wing was, he revealed that it consisted of him and two other guys.
    • During the Ori arc, a big song and dance is made of Teal'c going to the Lucian Alliance (pretty much Space Mafia/Drug Dealers) in an effort to gain reinforcements for a major space battle. They show up, with three Hat'ak ships (which are practically obsolete, especially in the face of the Ori super-ships). Two of them get blown away in one shot each within seconds of warping in.
  • Stargate Atlantis has only a handful of officers and a very small military contingent compared to the civilian science & research teams.
  • Stargate Universe in the first episode shows two Ha'taks being enhanced to go toe-to-toe with the newest Daedalus-class battlecruiser, so Tau'ri humans aren't the only ones who upgrade their tech. It's possible that the Ha'taks that Netan gave Teal'c were similarly enhanced. They just weren't enough.
  • Star Trek has a recurring plot point of the USS Enterprise being the only ship in Star Fleet available for even the most important missions. The worst-case was the first movie where it was the only ship available when an unknown object of great size approached Earth. Repeat, Star Fleet only had ONE ship to defend their base of operations. Occasionally this is subverted and we do see large groups of ships appear, but outside of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in which there was a full-scale war going so it would be ludicrous to keep using the "we're the only ship available" plot thread, it's extremely rare.
    • They do the same thing in Star Trek: Generations, where a ship carting VIPs and press around within the solar system is the only ship in range to handle the SOS call. Note a Starfleet ship can traverse the solar system in something like 10 seconds. And again, Earth is the center of the Federation, with San Francisco as its capital. It makes sense to be the only ship in the sector when they run into a Negative Space Wedgie while exploring the vast reaches of space, but you can't be the only ship in the sector when the ships are built at a network of stations in Mars orbit.
    • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, when the Borg are approaching Earth, the Federation sends three tiny fighters to counter it. They all get immediately vaporized. Even if that's literally all they have left after Wolf 359, you have to wonder why the Federation would send those poor pilots on a suicide mission. What did they think they'd accomplish? It's such a pointless, obviously futile attempt the only explanation is that they were automated ships probably set to try and ram the cube.
    • In the Original Series episode "A Piece of the Action", Krako tries to call (what he thinks is) Kirk's bluff by invoking this trope: "I only saw three guys in that ship. Maybe there ain't no more!"
    • Section 31 is the plausibly deniable black-ops wing of The Federation in Star Trek (specifically Deep Space Nine). While Section 31 shows up in three episodes, we only really see one guy (and a couple of extras). Justified (maybe) as the organization being secretive enough that they only show up when they want to, and only reveal one operative to any given group to maintain secrecy.
    • A less extreme example, but considering the sheer size of the Dominion, it does stretch belief a little that the Female Shapeshifter is generally the only founder to be seen doing anything meaningful. This was compounded in the last season after their union with the Cardassians and the Breen, when many scenes took place at the very heart of their military operations, yet the only commanders ever seen to be giving orders were Weyoun, Damar and that Breen guy.
      • Possible justifications, in order: Shapeshifter, Clone, Damar and environment suit.
      • And in the first case, it may be the converse: when the single mass consciousness of the Founders splits off a part of itself to do anything meaningful (and administrative), that part assumes the Female Shapeshifter's form and personality. The species is surprisingly uninterested in variety, after all, and the character look is supposed to come off as "generic humanoid".
      • Other than the ones on infiltration duty, she was the only Founder left in the quadrant after the wormhole was closed and recaptured by Sisko. She had mass-produced ranks of Vorta to do all the work of actually running things.
      • Even at the height of the period when the Federation and its allies were terrified of Founder infiltration, one Founder took amusement in informing Sisko that there were only three operating in the entire Federation, pointing out that the fear of the Founders was doing more than the Founders themselves ever could.
      • In the final episode, the Cardassian "resistance" assaulting the Founder's stronghold consists of about three Cardassians & Kira. This was down to sheer attrition; they started off with a significant rebellion, but by the moment of truth only the main characters (and some random guys who had been guarding the place minutes before) were left alive.
    • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Remember Me", people keep being Ret-Gone, and Dr Crusher is the only person who remembers them. No matter how small the Enterprise crew gets, nobody else seems to see any issue. Even when it's just her and the captain.
      Crusher: It's all perfectly logical to you, isn't it? The two of us roaming about the galaxy in the flagship of the Federation. No crew at all.
      Picard: We've never needed one before.
  • Section 20 in Strike Back barely seems to go above 20 people at most (counting silent extras), which is unusual when you consider that it's doing the jobs of the SAS, SRR, Special Forces Support Group... basically almost every intelligence and SF-related job available. And more often than not, when they actually got into the field, it's usually just Stonebridge and Scott. Series 4 was slightly better about this, in that Richmond and Martinez would regularly go in the field, along with Locke, but for much of the series, it did seem that Section 20 was just five people.
  • Super Sentai: Most commonly it's the villainous organizations that tend to have so little members outside of the generals that you have to wonder how they keep control of all the territories they conquer, though even the heroic side can have its short-staffing issues.
    • The Secret Society Egos from Battle Fever J consist of the Big Bad, Satan Egos; his Dragon Heller; their Mooks and whichever Monster of the Week they cook up for the episode. They get temporarily a staff upgrade with the strongwoman Salome but that's about it.
    • Unusually for a Sentai team, who usually have a huge Mission Control backing them up, Choujuu Sentai Liveman, for a time, only consisted of the Power Trio and their Robot Buddy; two extra members joined mid-series. Justified as they were basically college students whose former colleagues turned bad and in the first episode proceeded to lay waste to the college (which was on an island).
    • A similar situation happened in Choujin Sentai Jetman as well, when the Vyram destroy Skyforce's Earth Ship space station, with presumably lots of crewmembers on board, in the first episode. From thereon out, it's just the five Jetman and one commander. It gets somewhat odd later on when they're shown constructing new weapons and even one of their Humongous Mecha by themselves, when by all logic there should be other Skyforce employees or contractors to help them out. It gets even odder when the Neo-Jetmen show up led by Supreme Commander Ichijou.
    • The Evolian Tribe of Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger consists of their boss, Dezumozorlya; its mouthpiece: Lije, the generals Jeanne, Voffa and Mikela and the Barmia Soldiers; with Mikoto Nakadai/AbareKiller joining them for most of the series in the latter half. They lose one major member two episodes into the series and it's shown later on that they initially consisted of only two members beyond the Barmia: Dezumozorlya and Dezumovoorla, who was split into Mikela and Voffa before they were able to brainwash Mahoro, her child and her brother, Mizuho; into more generals.
    • The Vaglass from Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters consists of three members; Messiah, Enter, and Escape.
    • The Druidon Tribe generals from Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger operate at the absolute bare minimum numbers for a villain faction at almost all times. It is seldom for all three generals to appear at once, and it is not until two-thirds of the way through the show that there are four at once.
  • Torchwood used to be a large UNIT-sized organization until the London branch (Torchwood One) was dissolved, leaving behind the Five-Man Band Cardiff Torchwood Three, and the never-seen Torchwood Two, "a very strange man" in Glasgow. There is also a Torchwood Four. It apparently got lost, but they expect to find it again one day.
  • In one episode of A Touch of Frost, after a man kidnaps a child, he sends a ransom message saying that said child has been taken by "The Task Force". It turns out that this "Task Force" is actually just the guy, but he uses the name to throw off the police.
  • The Vampire Authority in True Blood has shades of this; they do have a seemingly endless stream of field operatives and commandos but once we get to see inside their HQ it seems that the entire government of the international vampire community can fit around one rather small conference table and apparently run the whole thing without any admin staff. May be partially justified as most executive duties would fall on the shoulders of their feudal vassals.
  • The team from Warehouse 13 consists of just four people backed by an Ancient Conspiracy tasked with protecting the entire world. This was apparently not always the case as scenes in the '60s reveal a busy office with at least two active teams. However, flashbacks to the '90s always show just two guys (Young Artie and Young MacPherson). An alternate present where Pete was never born also has the Warehouse reduced to a single team with a supervisor. This is especially weird as we are shown that The Regents that is in charge of the Warehouse but never seem to do much number at least a dozen. This was justified the first time we see them in person; other than go to meetings for votes they have almost no involvement and make their living in other jobs. The idea is that they represent the population at large.
  • In War of the Worlds (1988), the US government's response to a planetary invasion by aliens who had previously almost devastated the Earth was... to put three scientists and one soldier to work on the problem. The project was later assigned a military squad as well, but still.
  • In the Live-Action Adaptation of The Way of the Househusband, the Tenjakukai (Tatsu's old gang) has been reduced to the Boss, his wife, and Masa. They're more of The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything these days.
  • Major Crimes Unit in The Wire. Justified in that instance because the higher-ups only created it when a judge twisted their arm. So they naturally get the worst office space and cops to fill it out; the unit has to keep fighting for their very existence on account of their habit (led by Lester Freamon and Jimmy McNulty) of following the case where it leads, even if—strike that, especially if—it bothers people in high places, including the same higher-ups who were so reluctant to create it in the first place.
  • The X-Files consists of only two people handling the "special" cases. Good thing two cases never seem to crop up at once. Justified in the sense that they are given the "kooky" cases nobody else wants to touch.

  • Qwerpline:
    • The Nsburg Volunteer Coast Guard consists of one person, Gordon. However, since Nsburg is landlocked the volunteer coast guard is primarily responsible for inspecting sewers and culverts so more people probably aren't needed.
    • Officer Steve is the only member of the Nsburg Police Department ever heard in the show, although it's not clear if he's actually the only member or not. However, since the Nsburg PD does deputize the Girl Scouts to help with riot control the department is clearly quite small.
    • Although it waxes and wanes with the episode, the whole town is clearly quite small. When a local election had 67 candidates, it was mentioned that one of the debate moderator's main qualifications was "being one of the few people not running".
    • Nsburg has a "Search" rather than a Search and Rescue department, consisting of one guy who's very good at finding people but isn't interesting in rescuing them. They're trying to raise money to hire a second person to handle that part.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • While the Midwest Militia had more members, only three of them were ever present in WSU (at least until Mademoiselle Rachelle showed up). Their direct predecessor, Rain's Army, had many more members, both in total and on the WSU roster. However, there was a subversion in that three main militia members were just a small part of Flexor Industries.
  • The Pro Wrestling Syndicate "stable" Strength In Numbers scarcely had more than two members at any given time. Then it was revealed they had five members...for a little while.
  • The Extraordinary Gentlemen's Organization, made up of Frankie Kazarian, Bobby Roode and Christopher Daniels.
  • Black Rose's Los Abusadores Internacional had one executive, one secretary, and nothing else. Leon El Profesional was brought in when Jorge Estrella was banned from Valkyrie Pro but as soon as that got lifted, he fired Leon, leaving just himself and Debbie Cain again. He later introduced another secretary, Natalia Marie, as if she had always been there.
  • The Empire Wrestling Federation's "Triangle Of Terror" kept calling themselves such even when they were down to two members.
  • If you watched WWE programming, you would get the impression that the upper management of the largest wrestling promotion on earth comprises entirely of Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, Shane McMahon (when he's around), Triple H and Vince's comedic lackey du jour. Occasionally, a "Commissioner" or "President" would be appointed to handle day-to-day operations, but they did not appear to have any support staff or middle managers reporting to them. Usually, each of the major brands has a General Manager, who would run the program single-handedly, occasionally alongside an assistant or hired goon.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Thunderbirds: International Rescue appears to operate on severely stripped-back skeleton staffs. It takes thousands of people to make NASA's space-launches a reality, for instance. Yet Tracy Island seems to manage more atmospheric and space flights with just one guy doing all the support work and maintaining the craft and the launch pads — Brains. Also, the poor guy on the Thunderbirds space station seems to be a prisoner for life — he never gets relieved or gets a shore leave.
  • Similarly, in the universe of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, Spectrum appear to operate on a severely stripped-back skeleton staff. A military airbase or aircraft carrier employs at least a hundred guys for every one pilot, all doing necessary background work. We see Cloudbase (essentially a flying aircraft carrier) and its complement of Angel Interceptors, yet we never see the ground crews who arm, refuel, and perform maintenance, on the aircraft. The remake was a bit better about this, with various grey-uniformed SPECTRUM personnel carrying out all the typical Red Shirt duties except getting killed off whenever the show needed some drama (that was Scarlet's job) as well as the odd filler scene showing that the aforementioned rearming and refuelling of the Angel interceptors is mostly automated.

  • In Cabin Pressure, MJN Air has only four employees. In "Ipswich", they are forced to reduce that number to three by making Arthur a passenger.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: A very common theme in the game especially in the early eras, where an entire planet of millions of people might be defended by a single company of 12 mechs if it's an average planet and a particularly important planet might be defended by a regiment of up to 180 mechs and ground vehicles, possibly with infantry and aerospace support.
    • Many Mercenary groups tend to vary in size. The larger ones compose of 1 or more regiment of mechs, while smaller groups number up to one company or a lance of four mechs.
  • The Skull Lords, of Dungeons & Dragons, consist of 12 low- to mid-level undead, each one of which usually has about four or five low-level minions to their name. There are monsters introduced in the same book that could wipe out their entire organization singlehandedly.
  • Space Marine chapters in Warhammer 40,000 famously number about 1,000 each due to structural regulations put in place after the Horus Heresy. Some stories attempt to justify this by having them operate as strike teams while the Guard handles the stuff that needs more people, while others have 1,000 guys casually conquering a whole planet. This is especially prevalent with popular chapters like the Space Wolves or the Ultramarines, who show up to engagements across the galaxy far more often than you'd expect for a group that could fit onto a football fieldnote.
  • The Cowboy and Outlaw incarnations of Delta Green are divided in cells going from A to Z, each one with 3 agents (with their codenames starting their Cell's letter), this means they have 78 full-time members active all the time. Keep in mind this is the group that is supposed to protect and hide the population from the Cthulhu Mythos, however, sometimes they employ "friendlies" which are contacts that know about the unnatural and help Delta Green, most of the time they are contacted when the conspiracy needs them as they are closer or have specialized skills and some even are de facto agents members of a cell.
    • While The Program is much bigger, more organized, and well-funded, it's still comparatively small compared to other U.S agencies or even to fictional counterparts. They do try to make themselves look like they are bigger than they are for their enemies and their own agents:
    "A new Agent, on the other hand, may think the Program is at least as substantial as the DEA or the U.S. Marshals Service, only to realize, gradually, that it’s a fraction of their size."
    • The Karotechia (At least their remnants) is formed by three men, however, they managed to covertly achieve control of ODESSA (A secret organization of escaped Nazis) and to employ neo-Nazi, white supremacist, mercenary and criminal groups, collectively referred as the Bauern (Pawns), to work for them.

  • Watchers of Les Misérables could be forgiven for thinking that Inspector Javert is the only policeman in all of France. We first see him as Valjean's parole officer. When Fantine attacks a sea captain in Montreuil-sur-Mer, Javert is the officer who comes to arrest her (coincidentally running across Valjean in the process). In Paris, when Thenardier tries to mug Valjean, who should show up but Javert (who had already been established as the primary police presence in their neighborhood)? Who tries to infiltrate the barricades? Javert (it's already been established that they know him by sight; the infiltration plan would have worked if it had been literally any other policeman). Who catches Valjean and Marius on their way home? Javert. Aside from the two men who bring Valjean to the Bishop in the first act, no other law enforcement officers show up at all.

  • The Brotherhood of Makuta in BIONICLE plays with this, as originally (when they were still heroes) they were numbering in 100 members and each one was a One-Man Army unto themselves, but between the various purges Makuta Teridax went through to eliminate the disloyal to his plans and the deaths of others by their enemies, by the time of the main story there were only at most from one to two dozen left. They made up for it, again, with being incredibly powerful fighters alongside legions of enslaved Rahi, Exo-Toa, Rahkshi, and Visorak, and other miscellaneous servants and the fact they never intended to take over the universe through force of arms alone, but usurp the very fabric of reality to become gods.
  • Transformers: This is true of the Autobots and Decepticons in many continuities, where both factions tend to be represented by rather small teams, with a couple of new characters trickling in as new toys come out. It's usually given the justification that the franchise's Forever War and shortages of energon mean that both sides' forces are stretched far and thin by necessity.
    • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: The Decepticon Justice Division, the most feared and despised part of the Decepticon army, capable of killing Phase Six class Decepticons, themselves each a One-Man Army, consists mainly of five people and their pet. Though they are mentioned to have agents and informants around.
    • In the G1 cartoon, Shockwave seemed to be the sole Decepticon on Cybertron bar a couple Mecha-Mooks.
    • The Transformers: Armada comic featured at most ten non-Minicon characters working for either faction.
    • In an odd example of this, the Japan-original Decepticon Black Shadow had his function translated as "Space Mafia" rather than the more accurate "Space Gangster." This led to him picking up a cult fanbase by virtue of the fanon idea that there was apparently an entire unseen Space Mafia out there, of which Black Shadow was the only member ever seen. The common interpretation of this (that Black Shadow was a One-Man Army sufficient to act as the entire Space Mafia) even influenced his later official portrayals, where he was written as a rogue Super-Soldier who wiped out entire fleets for the right price.

    Video Games 
  • La Résistance in Beyond Good & Evil appears to consist of about five people in a basement. Justified in the game; this branch of La Résistance consists of five people in a basement, plus a leader whose real identity they don't know. Said leader is the leader of several (if not all) of the other branches of La Résistance as well, but this branch doesn't know how many branches there are under his command, how many people are in those branches, or who they are. All this inter-organizational secrecy is so that, in the (unfortunately likely) event that any of the branches are captured, the locations and identities of the rest of La Résistance can't be tortured out of them. The Chief himself happens to be the main character's uncle.
  • Castlevania has two:
    • Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow sees protagonist Soma Cruz opposed by a Cult called "With Light" that believes that, for God to embody Perfect Good, He must be opposed by Perfect Evil, embodied by the Dark Lord, which was Dracula, until 1999. This cult, who summons demons to attack Soma using hand-drawn seals, consists of... exactly three people: two candidates, Dario Bossi and Dmitrii Blinov, to be the new Dark Lord; and leader Celia Fortner.
    • The eponymous Order of Ecclesia, like "With Light" above, seems to consist of only three people: protagonist Shanoa, Lancer / Rival Albus(who goes rogue at the start of the game), and founder Barlowe. This seems bizarre when the latter says things like "It is the desire of the Order of Ecclesia" or describes what the Order of Ecclesia is supposed to do. Up to Eleven and lampshaded when Shanoa laments she's all that remains of it after Albus and Barlowe's deaths.
  • In Chrono Cross, in mild contrast to its base (where it was comprised of three people), the band of thieves called the Radical Dreamers is... really just Kid.
  • The police force of Palm Brinks in Dark Chronicle are explicitly stated to have just three officers, two after you recruit Sheriff Blinkhorn. This is stated to be because the town is so peaceful. One cop even notes they are overstaffed.
  • Destiny/Destiny 2: It's stated a few times that there are millions of active Guardians. So how big is the Vanguard, the command structure overseeing all those millions? Two people. Used to be three. They do have subordinates, but these are mostly field agents who are only occasionally involved in command. It's said that the Vanguard doesn't so much lead the Guardians as provide incentives for Guardians to self-organize and behave in certain ways, reducing the amount of oversight required, but that's still two people handing out rewards for millions, not to mention that the two of them frequently act as your Voice with an Internet Connection, which raises the question of who's doing that for everyone else.
  • The Chaldea Security Organization in Fate/Grand Order had exactly four consistent members for all of Part 1: the protagonist, Da Vinci, Doctor Romani Archaman, and Mash Kyrielight, plus the Servants the protagonist summoned, which come and go depending on the needs of the plot. And Fou. In some fairness, their numbers were apparently badly decimated in the Incineration of Humanity, but we still see a lot of mentions of technicians, janitors, or other support staff that never appear (which isn't helped by the Visual Novel presentation). Part 2 adds a couple Mauve Shirt staff that were apparently always in the background, who get retroactively added into anime adaptations of the first storyline's last few arcs.
  • The eponymous organization in the FEAR games appears to consist of four people (the Point Man, Jankowski, Jin, and Betters). It is implied the agency is somewhat larger, and that they are deployed in very small units as specialists, using conventional military as muscle. An expansion shows that the organization actually consists of seven people (Raynes, Chen, and the unnamed Sergeant), but one can take that with a grain of salt seeing as the first game's expansions were third-party and the official sequel, FEAR 2, chose to at best re-interpret some notable setpieces from them.
  • The Turks from Final Fantasy VII. Implied to be quite a big covert ops department, in the original game and the movie we only see four members (Reno, Rude, Tseng, and Elena) and one former member (Vincent). The Japan-only Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII, however, puts the group in the spotlight.
    • On the other side of the equation, Avalanche apparently consists of five people: Barrett, Tifa, Biggs, Wedge and Jesse, with Cloud not being an official member on account of him being a merc. Final Fantasy VII Remake changes it so that that's the size of the Avalanche cell that the main characters are associated with, and that the rest of the organization considers them extremists on the fringe (so they don’t get a lot of support). Another, considerably larger cell shows up later.
    • The end of that game has all the members introduced in it (including Cissnei/Shuriken Female, who was featured in Crisis Core) go into hiding for crimes they commit while members, i.e. letting Avalanche's leader escape (and some, beforehand), only coming out of it once to help stop Jade WEAPON. They were all Doomed by Canon due to their lack of appearance in other media anyways.
  • All the Families in The Godfather 2, including your own, have a very small number of Made Men. Some are justified: With yours at least, it's somewhat clear that you're just a branch of the greater Corleone Family. The Manganos are also apparently an offshoot of an established Sicilian Family. The two Rosato Families are unauthorised splinters from the Corleones. The Granados and Almeidas have no onscreen-stated excuse, though.
  • Grand Theft Auto V:
    • Trevor Philips Enterprisesnote  is described by its membership to be a multinational corporation that specializes in producing drugs and exporting weapons across North America. It consists of Trevor the Ax-Crazy leader, Nervous Ron the assistant and planner, Chef the meth cook, and Wade. By the end of the game, it has successfully killed off all of its competitors and remains the only criminal organization in Blaine County, despite being the smallest.
    • All Online organizations have a couple of people behind the scenes at the most. This, of course, leaves you to do all the gruntwork.
  • Grim Fandango has the Lost Souls' Alliance (LSA), which at first literally has 2 members, and later on, has only two more that you are able to talk to, one of whom joined after you met her. But in the last part of the game, the LSA has many more members. And there's no sign of anyone working for the Department of Death other than Manny, Domino, Manny's boss Don Copal, and Manny's boss's secretary Eva. Even counting the demons summoned specifically to serve the DoD only increases the count by two, justified since the first part of the game, set on the DoD, takes place during the Dia de Los Muertos, where going to work is optional, and Manny points that the office seems empty that day.
  • Kero Blaster: Cat & Frog, Inc. is based in a spacious 4-story office building, yet seems to consist of only 6 people: its president, the frog protagonist, his scientist co-worker, the pink Office Lady, and two shopkeepers.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Organization XIII could very well be an aversion, as the number of members are explicitly stated (not counting Xion, who is not an official member). What makes the Organization unusual is that they count as an example of this trope despite having an army of Nobodies at their beck and call. This gets egregious in 358/2 Days in which the other Nobodies don't even appear except as enemies and some members worry about a loss of manpower from losing just five guys. What's more, it's made clear in Dream Drop Distance that the number of members was quite deliberate, and not just in a 13 Is Unlucky sort of way.
    • The Chinese army in Mulan's world appears to consist of about five people.
    • While not an organization, all Keyblade wielders technically form an alliance, since they have a common purpose: to protect and maintain balance within the universe. For most of the series, there are about a dozen Keyblade wielders and even fewer are active during the same time. Mind you, this is actually an improvement (or Uniqueness Decay, if you are cynical) from the situation in the first game, which only features three wielders, one of whom is a villain. Eventually, it is revealed in χ that the situation is unnatural: many years ago, Keyblade wielders numbered hundreds, if not thousands, and they were a common sight in the universe. The Keyblade War decimated most of them, leaving only memories of past glory and the worn Keyblades you see in the Keyblade Graveyard.
  • Like a Dragon:
    • In Yakuza 3, the Ryudo family is mentioned to have soldiers out on patrol, but the only members ever shown are the patriarch Nakahara, his captain, and one of his lieutenants.
    • Also in 3, the Hamazaki family's small size is a plot point. Kashiwagi mentions that a family with the kind of reach and wealth the Hamazaki family has should have at least a couple hundred soldiers, but the Hamazaki family only has ten "made" members. This is because Hamazaki is using the Snake Flower Triad as his muscle, and is one of the first indications that Hamazaki is less than loyal.
  • In Little Nightmares, the Maw feels incredibly understaffed considering how mind-bogglingly huge it is. It's shown to have a prison, nursery, full-scale kitchen, large dining facilities, hotel rooms and it's essentially a large submarine. Despite this, it's shown to have a staff of Three (two cooks and janitor), not counting The Lady who presumably runs the place. It's possible there are many others working offscreen keeping the place going, tending to the guests, and keeping the prisoners in line, but none of them are ever shown or hinted at.
  • Near the end of Mass Effect 2, EDI implies that Cerberus is something like this, with a paltry 150 or so officers across a galaxy in which the writers generally do have a sense of scale. The Paragon ending implies that you just took a good chunk of those officers off as your own crew.
    • BioWare lampshaded this in preparation for the third game, where Cerberus is an active antagonist. To quote from the official website's page on the Centurion troopers:
      How the Illusive Man recruited and trained such a large number of top-line battlefield commanders is a worrying mystery. Cerberus, once comprised of small, covert cells of agents, is now a burgeoning and unconcealed threat to the galaxy. In the face of the immediate Reaper threat, Alliance Intelligence has scuttled their attempts to infiltrate Cerberus to find out how the Illusive Man managed to quickly swell his organization’s ranks.
    • In the game itself most of Cerberus' new troops are indoctrinated human refugees, many of them having been taken against their will and implanted with Reaper tech, essentially turning them into lightweight husks disguised with Powered Armor.
    • The team put together in Mass Effect 2 to wipe out the Collectors consists of Shepard, the 12 followers, Joker, EDI, and about two dozen personnel who keep the ship running. Keep in mind when they originally planned this operation they thought they'd have to basically invade a planet at the end.
  • This is beaten to death in the Mega Man Battle Network series. The amount of villains you face in each game while fighting against the various rebirths of the same organization is already quite small, but they sound less threatening and even laughable as the series goes on.
  • Metal Gear:
    • The Patriots of the Metal Gear 'verse were originally Six Fallen Heroes plus a few hundred to several thousands of clueless mooks, who have not the slightest idea who they are really working for. Then they have a collection of artificial intelligences set up by those fallen heroes and left to run the country. The 4th game reveals the identities of those ex-heroes, and knowing who they are you see, even by the start of Metal Gear Solid (and bear in mind we don't even learn about them until Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty), two of the members were already dead (including the first hostage you fail to rescue), the leader was basically retired all along (and is a vegetable by the time Solid Snake meets him) and the other three had gone their own way and turned against the group. Of the two that were dead, one of the latter actually murdered him. The "new" Patriots avert this trope since, thanks to their enormous influence, they equate themselves with the entire country and are even compared to the prevailing global system.
    • Philanthropy is an anti-Metal Gear organization, which, as Otacon puts it, "is officially recognized by the UN", to which Snake replies, "Recognized, but still fringe." At no point does Philanthropy ever consist of more than six members (Otacon, Sunny, Natasha Romanenko, two pilots who are never seen up close, and Snake), and they're classified as a terrorist organization later.
  • Metroid: The Space Pirates are hardly the fearsome force the manual makes them out to be, consisting of only Mother Brain, Kraid and Ridley. The local fauna and general geography are your most constant dangers in their so-called base. They managed to steal quite a lot of Metroids all the same. The manual claims Mother Brain gave life to the Multiviolas, but they still aren't referred to as Space Pirates, only "eerie followers" of them. The strategy manga for the game added a bit of plot, explaining Samus defeated most of the space pirates in space, but then fell off her ship (the vessel seems to be a bit of a klutz when Samus isn't piloting it or giving it orders), requiring her to find new power-ups when she landed on the planet without it. The Metroid: Zero Mission remake and the later games avert this trope by introducing the regular Space Pirate mooks and adding two more commanders in Super Metroid.
  • Anytime Raiden organizes a group of Earthrealm warriors in Mortal Kombat to oppose the forces of the Outworld, they tend to be small, and indeed, his efforts ended in failure in both Deadly Alliance and Armageddon. In Mortal Kombat 9, you could technically say he was successful (better than the alternative, at least; he saved the world and slew Shao Kahn — probably — despite horrible casualties for his side) but again, his group was a small one, starting with only seven (himself, Sonya, Johnny Cage, Jax, Sub-Zero, Liu Kang, and Kung Lao), the number later growing to 13 as Kitana and Jade defect to his side and Smoke, Stryker, Nightwolf, and Kabal join his cause later.
  • Neptunia:
    • Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2: Cave mentions being a part of a group called the Leanbox Defense Force, who work to protect Leanbox from outside threats. If she quits to join the party, their membership drops to three.
    • Lampshaded and justified in Megadimension Neptunia VII with the "secret organization" AffimaX, which per Warechu's own words consists of only five members (and technically is actually "four and one other" with that other being Ultradimension Neptune) yet has global reach across all of Gameindustri. And if you want to get technical, Arfoire and Warechu are just officially allied with the organization and a bit player respectively, with the true power being the founder Affimojas and his loyal enforcer/best friend Steamax. In this case, they just adopted the whole "secret organization" label the media spinned up about them. Their actual purpose before Kurome rewrote reality and the memories of the citizens with her power is as the largest information sharing site in the world and wielding that intelligence to their advantage, with Affimojas himself outright stating he's not interested in "war" in the form of armed conflict and much prefers the control and dispersal of (true or fake) information in order to make money.
  • No More Heroes features the United Assassins Association. Aside from the ranked assassins (of which there are 10 by the time the game starts), Sylvia and her two cleaners are the only personnel we ever see. Justified, as it turns out that the entire thing was a money scam by Sylvia, with the even lesser-known ulterior motive of training Travis to face off against Jeane, his ex-girlfriend and murderer of his parents.
  • Only the Brave Can Rescue the Kidnapped Princess: Longsword is the King's only knight, though the reason for that is the King fired the rest as he felt they were unnecessary for 'today's civilized society'. However, Jonathan the page and Muggins the magician are the only other castle staff seen in the game and the Queen is said to be the one who cooks for the King.
  • In Persona 5, if you ask the newspaper club member about the newspaper club, she'll mention on certain days that she is the only member left.
  • Pokémon:
    • Played with and justified in Pokémon Sun and Moon with Team Skull. They are a constant threat to the populace and Pokémon of Alola, but are much smaller compared to the "Team" organizations from the previous generations, to the point of having exactly one admin note  and the first few battles with them being the same two grunts. This makes sense, since Alola is composed of a few islands and Team Skull is a street gang, so they are enough to pose a threat. Also, evil groups in the series are usually referred to as "Gangs" in the Japanese releases. Finally, they're secretly backed by the much bigger Aether Foundation.
    • Team Yell in Pokémon Sword and Shield is an even smaller organization—they consist of no more than a dozen hoodlums based in Spikemuth and as few as six or seven grunts roaming around Galar. There are also no admins whatsoever, with just the grunts and their leader Piers, who shows no signs of even being aware of what his organization is doing. Justified, though, as Team Yell's purpose is simply to let Marnie pass ahead of the other Gym Challengers by slowing the others down—they only need to locate bottlenecks where the furthest challengers are and get in their way, which doesn't require many people as long as they're good enough at what they do. Averted with the larger-scope villainous organization Macro Cosmos, which controls most of the industries in the Galar region: It DOES have an admin system and contains a seemingly endless supply of grunts.
  • Oros Phlox, the main villains in Project × Zone, only consists of three members. Due Frabellum is the leader, but it later turns out that Due as well as the Belanos brothers answer to Meden Traore, the fourth member and true leader of Oros Phlox.
  • The World Annihilation Front from Sands of Destruction is the most notorious group of bomb-throwing terrorists known to the ferals. We only meet two official members: Morte and the leader Lacertus Rex (the rest of your Player Party is "drafted" but is more guilty-by-association than true believers). Morte implies there may be more, but we never see or hear of them. Aquilla Rex laughs when Naja implores him to send for more troops when there are only five of them to fight; naturally, those five wipe the floor with his whole unit.
  • The Scorpion Army from Secret of Mana which consists of the Femme Fatale leader and at most three gangly, green-suited male lackeys.
  • In Small Saga, Those Two Guys Bree and Stilton organize a protest march on the palace. They send out lots of fliers, and you'd think they would get a strong response given how deeply unpopular King George and his policies are, but only Verm and the other three in his party, and a maximum of four other characters if you did all the sidequests, actually bother to show up, something that the two find disappointing. Even so, Verm and his party are such formidable fighters that it sends the king into a panic.
  • From Splatoon, the New Squidbeak Splatoon is a militia dedicated to taking down the unscrupulous attacks of the Inklings' sworn enemies, the Octarians. It consists of one old guy, his two granddaughters, one weapon shop owner and, by Splatoon 3, three blokes who stumbled upon them out of curiosity and one who took a wrong turn when defecting from the enemy side. Word of God has outright confirmed that most Inklings are simply too hedonistic to even bother remembering that the Octarians exist, to the point where the general populace mostly sees as Octoling defectors as Inklings with funky tentacles.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    • Havoc Squad is The Elite of The Elite, the best Republic Special Forces has to offer, known and respected by both the Republic and the Empire, and consists of just two guys (Player included) by the time everything on Ord Mantell is wrapped up. Justified as all the rest of squad pulled a Face-Heel Turn to the Empire and getting Havoc back to being a proper squad is a recurring secondary objective throughout the Republic Trooper storyline.
    • Similarly the numbers of the Rift Alliance Military forces on Hoth can be counted one hand. Again this is a plot point with the Codex even saying most of them know they are screwed against their opponents the White Maw (an army of pirates whose numbers rival that both the Republic and Imperial personnel on the planet) with one soldier in particular even attempting to desert.
  • Shadaloo in Street Fighter. As far as we know, there are only five or six members: The leader M. Bison, his Co-Dragons Barlog, Vega, and Sagat (who got replaced in the fifth game by F.A.N.G.), Seth, the leader of the subordinate S.I.N. group that went rogue in the game it got introduced, and the financial advisor JP, who was only introduced in the sixth game after Shadaloo was dissolved. Even if you count the brainwashed Doll Squad, they are still quite small. This is subverted in Bison's intro movie to Street Fighter IV where we see him with a fairly large amount of henchmen.
  • In NEO: The World Ends with You, the Ruinbringers consist of only three people — Susukichi, Tsugumi and their unseen leader Game Master Shiba — but win the games every time, despite the fact that even the Wicked Twisters (the party) is larger than they are from the end of the game's first day.
  • Transistor: The last of the Tap() information reveals that the Camerata are a deliberately small organization for a group that wants to enact large scale change:
    The Camerata was just the two of them at first, and its ranks were never meant to exceed a number to be counted on one hand.
  • Undertale: Asgore's court consists only of Alphys (royal scientist), Undyne (captain of the guard), a handful of soldiers (Royal Guard 01, Royal Guard 02, and the Snowdin Canine Unit), and Papyrus (guard-in-training). Then again, there don't seem to be all that many monsters in the Underground, since the No Mercy route, which involves wiping out the monsters, has you kill several dozen monsters.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown:
    • The first game gave this impression, as despite being a global organisation funded by every country in the world, they only had enough resources to send four to six soldiers to a mission at any one time. If two or more events happened simultaneously, they could only respond to one, and the other regions affected were left with no defence at all, making them very angry and liable to cut off funding.
    • The sequel justifies this a little better by making XCOM an underground resistance cell fighting against an alien-controlled earth. They only have limited options because their resources really are that low compared to their enemies.
  • The Xenonauts are supposed to be the last line of defense against the alien threat. However, the force commands 20-30 troops at best (not counting fighter pilots, engineers, scientists, and such). There are various explanations of this situation, mostly revolving around some sort of political plot.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth has a variation with the Berry Big Circus in the second game. The Circus has various divisions specializing in performances, but almost all of them have only one person each, and the only exception, the Animal Tamer division, has Regina and her apprentice Simon Keyes, the latter of whom is a new character in the second Investigations game.
  • Snatcher: The Junker organization the protagonist belongs to is tasked with tracking down and eliminating people-snatching robots in the city of Neo Kobe. Their headquarters is in a skyscraper. There are maybe five members, and only two are on active duty at the start of the game. Shortly reduced to one. There were three other guys, but they were killed just before the start of the game.

    Web Animation 
  • In Helluva Boss, the Immediate Murder Professionals (I.M.P) consists of its owner Blitzø, his two employees Moxxie and Millie, and his receptionist/adopted daughter Loona. Could be justified given that it's an independent business (and the fact that Blitzø isn't that competent of a boss).
  • Homestar Runner plays this for humor fairly often, as most any organization will be comprised of the standard cast. "more armies" is a good showcase of this — the On Point Kings are just Strong Bad, the Cheat, and Strong Mad, the Homestarmy is Homestar, formerly Homsar and Strong Sad, and a handful of inanimate objects (one of which "perished" in battle), and the Municipality under the King of Town seems to consist entirely of the Poopsmith. All three still consider themselves big enough to get booths at the Vaguely Military Career Fair, though given the vagueness of how many people live or work in Free Country, USA, it's hard to imagine what this means.

    Web Comics 
  • The Inquisition in Exterminatus Now seemed to consist of only the four main characters plus a few recurring characters. However, the truth is that while the Inquisition is much bigger, the reasons main characters are so rarely seen with other Inquisitors is because A: they are blackmailing the chief to have a large, well-furnished building to themselves, and B: everyone else in the Inquisition hates them and hope that they die, so they rarely send backup. They even have a betting pool. However, the reason they don't just murder them themselves is that they are useful due to their absurd amounts of luck. This gets averted in one arc where they take command of a small Badass Army.
  • Spec Ops in Turnus. The boss's office is a broom cupboard.
  • Kelly Turnbull, for her part in an Original Character Tournament called The Coliseum, does a beautiful justification of an oddly small organization. It perfectly illustrates just how EFFECTIVE a small band with loyal, professional, and capable members can be.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, when Earth is attacked by the Pirates of Ipecac, their ship turns out to contain only two pirates.
  • In the Tales Of Gnosis College a student named Jill Keeney joins an organization she believes is devoted to the overthrow of the hated dictator of Monte Blanco. Once she's joined it, it appears to consist of three
  • SOMOS in Supernatural Investigation Department consists of about five or six people. This is a terrorist organization that has caused trouble in multiple countries.
  • In PVP, at the end of the arc in which Skull runs away after Brent's abuse gets to be too much for him, the rat Skull befriended tries to invite him into the "Rat Family," a criminal organization he hopes will rise and become powerful. Skull asks how many people there are in it, and the rat says that if Skull joins, there will be two members.

    Web Videos 
  • The Order in the Breeniverse shows is supposedly a far-reaching worldwide organisation, but the same individual members appear frequently. In KateModern, these typically include Michelle Clore, the Shadow, Kate's Watcher, and Rupert van Helden. In lonelygirl15, more Order members do appear, but the gang still seem to run into Carl, Lucy, and Bree's Watcher surprisingly often.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer: ISIS initially appeared to have a full support staff and a large number of field agents, but by about season 4 they seem to have dropped down to about six people. There does seem to have been a bit of transition in terms of fatalities and budget cuts; some of the later episodes even make a plot point about how they're forced to start using people like accountants and HR reps as extra agents. Following this, the fifth season premiere results in ISIS dissolving, the main cast together going off for other ventures, and the other surviving employees (if there were any) presumably going elsewhere.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: The episode "Pretty Poison" makes it appear the GCPD is comprised solely of Commissioner Gordon, Harvey Bullock, Renee Montoya and six other nameless guys.
  • The Legion Ex Machina in Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. Not only are they a prominent and credible threat with vast technological resources, (having an abandoned factory as a base certainly helps) but they are nebulous, as well. Despite being made of only six members.
  • Buddy Thunderstruck:
    • Sheriff Cannonball and Deputy Hoisenberry are the only cops in Greasepit.
    • Muncie appeared to be the only one working at the Concho Bolo, until the beavers joined her.
  • In The Busy World of Richard Scarry, with the exception of a rookie officer in "Sergeant Murphy's Deputy", Murphy is the only active officer shown for Busytown's police force. In the book What Do People Do All Day?, a police chief, a dispatcher and a night shift officer are seen.
  • Camp Lazlo: Camp Kidney's only staff are Scoutmaster Lumpus, Slinkman, Chef McMuesli, Nurse Leslie and the lifeguards Pierre and No-Neck (who only appeared in two episodes). Still, they were better off than Acorn Flats who only had Jane Doe and Ms. Mucus.
  • In Captain Pugwash, Pugwash runs his entire pirate ship—which appears to be a three-masted galleon—with a crew consisting of himself, the mate, two sailors and the cabin boy. And, at times, the cabin boy has sailed the ship single-handed. The pirate crew of his Arch-Enemy Cut-Throat Jake does not appear to be any larger.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers: The pilot movie "To the Rescue" featured the Pound Underground, an organization devoted to freeing dogs from the pound. Its leader Frenchie explains that it includes himself, his colleague K. Sera, and, uhm... did he mention himself? They do have a handy network of tunnels beneath the pound, though, and what else do you need to be a Pound Underground?
  • The '80s animated show C.O.P.S. had about seven to eight police officers and roughly the same number of members in the mob.
  • Darkwing Duck:
    • Despite being the top crime boss in St. Canard, Taurus Bulba's gang consisted of his right hand man Hammerhead Hannigan, henchmen Hoof and Mouth, secretary Clovis and pet condor Tantalus.
    • Negaduck rules Nega-St. Canard but it's a Thriving Ghost Town so his only seen minions are Nega-Launchpad, Nega-Herb, Nega-Binkie and Nega-Honker.
    • F.O.W.L. has plenty of Eggmen foot soldiers but few higher ranking agents: Steelbeak, Ammonia Pine, Major Synapse, Hotshot, Flygirl and Ample Grime.
    • The only seen agents of S.H.U.S.H. were Director J. Gander Hooter, Agent Grizzlikof, Dr. Sarah Bellum and Derek Blunt.
  • Futurama:
    • Parodied with the Robot Mafia, which consists of only two minions and a "Don Bot," and, temporarily, Bender.
    • Most of the organizations qualify. The megacorp Momcorp and all its subsidiaries seem to be staffed entirely by Mom and her three sons (though Dr. Farnsworth worked there before). During the film "Into Wild Green Yonder," the Wongs, who are building a mini-golf course the size of an entire arm of the galaxy, have four construction workers on staff, and one security guy — Fry. The New New York Police seems to have two cops on staff, with the chief introduced in one of the movies. Similarly, the League of Robots is composed of four robots (and Bender) who all happen to be particularly affluent 'bots (Hedonism bot, that Rich banker, a soap opera star, and an Ultimate Robot Fighter)
  • The Dark Hand in Jackie Chan Adventures was often referred to as being a superpowerful world-reaching crime net, with operatives everywhere... but the only operatives who seem to exist are the four henchmen (who aren't too bright), a black-belt temp, and their leader, no matter where Chan goes. Oh yeah... and the leader's driver. It would appear that their reputation is greatly exaggerated. Eventually the writers figured, "screw it," and the four/five characters were, by the end of their run, referred to as the Dark Hand exclusively, with no other members. Which of course raises further questions... In earlier episodes, the Dark Hand had a lot of nameless henchmen, but they probably all quit when they heard that their boss was taking orders from a statue. Not to mention that in later seasons, the organization has completely collapsed due to Valmont putting all his eggs in the Shendu basket, and now even those minions have moved on to other employment.
  • Justice League:
    • In the episode "Legends," the same two cops seem to keep coming to see the Justice Guild, and later on, Flash comments "Are they the only two cops in this town?" The answer is yes.
    • Or, for that matter, the League itself. Just seven individuals (of whom only six are super) to protect the entire planet from any threat and to take on off-world missions? Please. It comes to bite them mightily in the ass in "Starcrossed", prompting them to go on a recruitment drive in Unlimited. Of course, that comes to bite them in the ass, too, in the Cadmus Arc.
  • Kim Possible:
    • Big Bad Dr. Drakken is occasionally shown to have a few dozen Punch-Clock Villain Mooks at his disposal, but in most episodes, they're nowhere to be seen and the whole Evil Plot of the Week is just him and Dark Action Girl Shego doing their thing. At one point, they were briefly seen in an employee lounge and took no further part in the episode. Then again, Shego is pretty much all the help he needs (especially considering that the rank-and-file mooks are generally useless and serve as little more than speed bumps in Kim's way). Several things have been mentioned in episodes that might explain the on-again-off-again presence of Drakken's rank-and-file mooks. Drakken's Villain Cred is notoriously weak, and he's sometimes short on money (and, at least according to Shego, he's tight-fisted with money when he does have it). That would make it hard to recruit and keep people.
    • Kim Possible's group itself. It consists of herself, Ron, Rufus, Wade, and that's it. If it wasn't for all of the people who owe her favors, she wouldn't get much done. Justified in that she never passes herself off as anything other than a teenager doing odd jobs on the side.
    • Almost every class we see at Middleton High School is taught by Mr. Barkin. He occasionally explains that he is substituting for another teacher who was sidelined by some random mishap.
  • In Book 3 of The Legend of Korra we have the Red Lotus, a group of Bomb-Throwing Anarchists who attempted to kidnap Korra as a child and, after breaking out of prison, try to do so again. While they are established as extremely powerful, and it is stated that they are part of a larger faction of Red Lotus members, Zaheer's group consists of four people (himself included). And while we do see them working with other members a couple of times, that number only goes up to an additional five people (Aiwei and four nameless mooks), meaning that the main villains chasing down Team Avatar consists of four, albeit extremely powerful, people.
  • In M.A.S.K., ruthless terrorist organisation VENOM, the greatest threat to world security, initially consisted of... three people. As more toys were released, they eventually expanded to... eight people.
  • In an episode of Men in Black: The Series, MIB become this when an unknown Time Traveling assassin starts picking off the founders in the past. When only Kay is left, the entire operation consists of a dozen or so people (all human) at the back of a nail salon with an antique computer taking up another room. Jay (who has Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory in this episode) points out the ridiculousness of it all, but they have a hard time seeing the problem.
  • The titular Middlemost Post postal service just consists of an ex-sea captain, a cloud person, and a semi-sapient walrus, even if it only operates for one town. Fortunately, they're competent enough at their jobs that they don't really need anyone else.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated is just one mad scientist, his robot helper, and occasionally his daughter.
  • The first episode of Pole Position indicates that Dan, Tess, and Uncle Zack work for a fairly large crime-busting organization, and we meet another one of their agents. For the rest of the series, there isn't much to indicate that there's anybody else in the organization but the three of them.
  • Regular Show has seven people (if one can call them people) staffing a city park roughly the size of Central Park.
  • Samurai Jack: Depending on the episode, Aku seems to function as his own empire's entire bureaucracy and secret police (since he seems to spend a lot of time watching people on his view screens, and personally meets with even the lowliest informant, mercenary or dignitary). He also frequently goes to fight Jack one-on-one or personally acts to destroy one of the many time-travel MacGuffins scattered around the setting. Other episodes, however, have emphasized he does have legions of subordinates at his disposal, and said subordinates are committed to the grunt-work of oppressing ordinary folk, rooting out dissidents, and strip-mining the planet when they're not being thrown at Jack en masse.
  • Scary Godmother: Well, Party at least. They make a big deal that Scary Godmother's party is the biggest talk of the Fright Side, but by the time the party starts, there are only a handful of people at most attending.
  • Scooby-Doo has the mystery-solving group known as Mystery Inc., which is made of four teenagers (or young adults) and a talking dog. In most cases they don't use any extra people, and those are honorary members at best.
  • Secret Squirrel: In the 90s version, the Super Secret Service's only members are Secret Squirrel, Morocco Mole, the Chief and Penny.
  • The Horde in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power has an arbitrarily large number of Mecha-Mooks and Faceless Goons, but the visible command structure above those goons could fit in a Volkswagen Microbus even before manipulation and infighting begins to thin the ranks. "Signal" implies that Shadow Weaver, before Catra took her position as The Dragon, ran the Horde's entire bureaucratic and logistical apparatus by herself, and if anyone from the Horde is doing something that merits actual characterisation and more than one line, it's generally going to be Catra or Scorpia (if it's a command position) or fresh boot camp graduates Lonnie, Kyle and/or Rogelio (if it's grunt work).
  • The Simpsons:
    • The Springfield Mafia tends to just be Fat Tony and his two goons.
    • The Springfield Police Department are an odd case because, when necessary, they do have a large force (even if we only know the names of three), and other times it is explicit they're just Wiggum, Ed, and Lou.
      Wiggum: We gotta get the whole force on this!
      Lou: Chief, we are the whole force.
      Wiggum: OK, we gotta start recruiting, Lou!

      Mayor Quimby: Did you know we had to lay off a third of the police force? That's right: Eddie.
      Eddie: I used to have a gun!
    • In "Poppa's Got A Brand New Badge", when SpringShield took over policing duties, it consisted of just Homer, Lenny and Carl:
      Homer: You can kill me, but someone will take my place. And if you kill him, someone will take his place. And if you kill him, then that's basically it, the town will be yours.
  • The titular charity in Smiling Friends has four permanent employees and a boss (known only as "The Boss"), and only Pim and Charlie are ever shown doing any actual work. Despite this, one episode claims that the company is able to lose 2.4 billion dollars and remain solvent.
  • The entire police force in South Park in the early seasons seemed to consist of just Officer Barbrady, who makes Chief Wiggum look like Joe Friday. (At least Wiggum had at least two other cops under him.) Whenever other policemen appear, it's usually county or state police. By the seventh season, the county/state police were the South Park Police Department, and Barbrady was apparently Put on a Bus. In "Naughty Ninjas", he references the fact that he used to protect the town by himself.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants has the Krusty Krab. This would be fine, all and all, given that Mr. Krabs is a cheapskate that uses as few people as possible for a single restaurant. But the only other people besides him are SpongeBob and Squidward, so the staff is even smaller when either of the three are not there and the place keeps going well somehow. Squidward is the cashier, SpongeBob does all the cooking and cleaning, and Krabs does everything else, including accounting, management, budgeting...
  • Steven Universe: "The Answer", a Whole Episode Flashback to the Gem Rebellion (and Garnet's role in it), shows an attack by the dreaded Crystal Gems... Rose Quartz and Pearl. Nobody else. Later episodes would introduce more Crystal Gems, such as Bismuth, so it's usually thought to be Garnet condensing it down to just the main characters for Steven's convenience (the episode being framed as a story she's telling Steven). The actual reason, as revealed in "Now We're Only Falling Apart", is that the Crystal Gems as we know them hadn't formed yet – the ones Garnet saw were Pink Diamond and her Pearl faking a threat to get the Gems to leave Earth alone. The Crystal Gems as a real organization came about afterward, when Pink was inspired by Garnet's circumstances to take in misfit and outcast Gems and make Earth a haven for them.
  • Stripperella has two: the strip club Tender Loins whose only dancers are Erotica, Giselle, Persephone and Catt and secret agency FUGG which only has Stripperella, Chief Stroganoff, Hal and Bernard and Special Agent 14.
  • While every other version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that features the Purple Dragons averts this by virtue of them being a decently-sized street gang, they are only comprised of three guys in the 2k12 series. Naturally, they remain a low-level threat throughout unless someone else leads them (Ho Chan and, later on, Hun). Their Rise incarnation is even smaller, as they're just a club of teenage computer hacker tech thieves.
  • Thundercats 1985: The Berserkers. Originally, Hammerhand had a fairly large crew but after his first appearance, the pirate band were reduced to him, Cruncher, Ram Bam and Top-Spinner.
  • Venture Industries, for most of the run of The Venture Brothers, appears to consist of Doctor Rusty Venture, who does pretty much all the company-involved work, Brock Samson, his bodyguard (later replaced by Sergeant Hatred), and H.E.L.P.eR, the put-upon Robot Butler, plus Hank and Dean, who aren't employees. There's also Hector and Swifty, who worked as janitors before Rusty took over the company and apparently just never stopped showing up to work; Rusty didn't even realize they were employed and promptly fired them the moment he met them. One episode implies that the company may still have some other employees, but Rusty's inability to work anything out with the superscience worker's union means that they've been on strike for years on end, and another had them taking on a bunch of college interns when they needed to get a larger project done. The small size of the company is very much intentional; Venture Industries is shown many times to be a collapsing shell of its former self, and the lack of employees is a big part of its woes.

    Real Life 
  • Surprisingly, the British Empire. The number of officials governing all that territory was amazingly small. For example, as late as 1940, there were just 200 civil servants for all of Malaysia which then included Singapore too. It was widely seen as over-staffed. At independence, there were just 980 members of the ICS for the entire Indian subcontinent (now India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh)
  • The Geheime Staatspolizei/Ge'-Stapo' (State Secret Police) branch of the Schutzstaffel/SS (Protection Service) never had more than a hundred people operating in even the largest cities under Wehrmacht military administration (e.g. Paris, Brussels) or German State Administration (Amsterdam, Warsaw). This included the secretaries and the number was usually much lower. The organisation's effectiveness was entirely dependent upon the local cooperation of its rivals — the Sicherheitsdienst/SD (Security Service) branch of the SS, the Ordnungspolizei/Or'-Po' (Order Police) which were affiliated with the SS, and the local police force of the area in question. In Warsaw the Gestapo was utterly beleaguered due to a rocky relationship with the SD and Or'po', the incredibly begrudging cooperation it got from the Polish police, and general stonewalling by the population at large. In Amsterdam, on the other hand, the German Civil Administration managed to secure direct control over the Dutch Police and the SD and Gestapo forged a working partnership to police a relatively compliant populace and so produced Germany's most effective counter-intelligence work of the entire war. This unusual effectiveness notably caused the failure of the UK's late 1944 Market Garden surprise offensive operation to take the Netherlands.
  • The United States federal government has three branches. The executive branch includes literally millions of people, counting the armed forces, and even without them would number well into the tens of thousands. (Homeland Security, OSHA, USDA...) The legislative branch is made up of 535 congresspeople plus staffers (in the year 2000, there were approximately 11,692 personal staff, 2,492 committee staff, 274 leadership staff, 5,034 institutional staff, and 3,500 GAO employees, 747 CRS employees, and 232 CBO employees.), and the judicial branch is made up of 876 judges, their staffers, and a few more independent agencies. The legislative branch is not only small compared to the executive branch, but it's also small per capita compared to representative bodies in other countries.
    • The House of Representatives actually used to scale with total population; if the original ratio had been maintained to the present, instead of being halted at 435, there would be about 10,000 Congressmen. Compared to that number, the current Congress is a small organization indeed. Even among people who think the size of the Congress should be increased (to make it a bit more representative, and particularly to keep states with larger populations from being shortchanged), the proposals only bump the House up to 500, 550, or at the most 650. There is a reason for this, though; once a legislature gets above a certain size, it becomes unwieldy and can't get stuff done. (Either that, or it becomes so dominated by the few members in party leadership that individual members cannot meaningfully contribute to the work of legislation and are thus at least arguably superfluous.) The largest legislature in the world that meaningfully acts as a primary lawmaking bodynote  is the European Parliament, with 751 members; the next largest are the British House of Commons and German Bundestag, with 650 and somewhere around 600-700 members, respectively.note  Also, the US is a federation, so although the federal Congress can seem unrepresentative, Americans are much better represented by their state legislatures, which have a lot of power. That being said, the Congress does have an alarmingly small staff—in particular, its research and analysis departments, which are supposed to assess bills for their impact, inform legislators about policy, draft bill text, and review bills to make sure they are coherent and have no embarrassing or dangerous errors, are frighteningly understaffed and lacking in resources, meaning that legislators often have to rely on dubious information presented by activists, lobbyists, corporations, and others with incentives to present biased and incomplete analyses.
  • The CIA is an example with regard to their case officers. While they are likely the largest single intelligence agency in the world, they have fewer case officers in the entire agency than the FBI has special agents for New York City alone. In this case, this is largely because most of the CIA's personnel are analysts as opposed to case officers. The analysts aren't heavily shown in fiction, largely because of the generally boring nature of their work.
  • The Bureau of Intelligence and Research, or INR for short, is the part of the Department of State responsible for organizing intelligence coming from diplomatic cables and helping to define the US diplomatic strategy. They receive and analyse thousands of reports and diplomatic cables from all over the world, have access to classified reports from other agencies such as CIA or NSA, and practically decide what the Department of State and US government's next steps in foreign policy are going to be. They are staffed by...300 people.
  • During Prohibition, the Volstead Act (the act that made the production and transportation of liquor illegal) was enforced by the aptly named Bureau of Prohibition. Or at least, it was supposed to, on paper. The agency as a whole had only 1,500 agents nationwide, which per 1920 census totals was a ratio of one agent per every 70,000 people.
    • Much of this stemmed from the fact that the Republicans who ran the government when the Volstead Act first went into effect were not believers in big government spending. In a classic case of "it's someone else's problem" mentality, the feds felt that the state and municipal law enforcement agencies would be willing to fill the gaps in enforcing Prohibition. While that was certainly accomplished in conservative-leaning rural areas, where people were more sympathetic to the idea of temperance, it was a nightmare to enforce Prohibition in the more liberal-leaning cities—especially because those cities tended to have large populations of Germans, Catholics, German Catholics, and Jews who regarded alcohol as a way of life (nothing united the bickering Irish, German, Italian, Polish, and Jewish immigrant populations of America's cities quite like their love of booze). City governments felt they shouldn't have to enforce the federal government's regulations. Local law enforcement also tended to see alcohol as a harmless vice. Many cops were drinkers themselves. Though often, the reason they looked the other way was that they were bribed/intimidated into doing so. This in part was how Al Capone managed to amass so much control over organized crime in Chicago.
  • People tend to think of Steve Jackson Games (the makers of In Nomine, Toon, GURPS and Munchkin) as a moderately powerful force in the gaming industry. Their total staff is less than 20 people at any one time with most work being contracted with freelancers. Most game companies are even smaller.
  • Some of the most popular websites in the world, like Wikipedia, are staffed by fewer than 100 people.note 
  • Back during the early Silver Age, Marvel Comics barely existed and the actual office making the comics consisted of a room with two sections, one being Stan Lee's office and the other being (mostly) Jack Kirby's workspace, with Steve Ditko and a few others dropping in from time to time to get their assignments or collect their paychecks. Apart from them, there was Stan Lee's secretary "Fabulous Flo" at a desk out front, who had the unenviable task of keeping any fans who were visiting the company from taking an "unofficial" tour of the office. As she would say in a later interview, "There really was nothing back there to see."
  • Many terrorist/freedom fighter groups can have huge world impacts despite barely having enough members to fill a bus.
    • The far-left agitators Weather Underground never had more than about 30 members at any time.
    • Al-Qaeda never had much more than 3,000 members, and only around 40 guys were involved in planning and executing the 9/11 attacks. Today, Al-Qaeda proper consists of 300-500 guys holed up somewhere in the mountains of Pakistan.
    • There are much larger "franchise" AQ groups (Al-Qaeda in Iraq Mesopotamia, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb being the ones you're most likely to hear about), but they're independent guys who started using the name, after which Osama bin Laden "let" them use it.
    • Despite its notoriety, the Symbionese Liberation Army, best known for kidnapping and allegedly brainwashing Patty Hearst, never had more than 16 known members at one time.
    • Following a particularly disastrous boat trip from Mexico, Fidel Castro hit the shores of Cuba with around a dozen guerrillas. Throughout the entirety of the Cuban Revolution, his band averaged around 200-300 men.
  • The controversial Westboro Baptist Church, which has been notorious in recent years for its picketing of funerals and anti-gay propaganda, has only 39 members as of last count, mostly members of the extended family of its founder, Fred Phelps. His death and defections by members have shrunk the original group. They have no real affiliation with any Baptist denomination, and both the Baptist World Alliance and the Southern Baptist Convention (the two largest Baptist denominations) have denounced them and condemned their actions.
  • Independent videogame developers tend to be rather small. Some examples include:
    • Mojang ABnote , which is known for developing Minecraftnote  and Caller's Bane (formerly Scrolls), currently consists of 40 peoplenote , but was, initially, run by just one person: Markus "Notch" Persson.
    • Carpe Fulgur, the two-man localization team that brought Recettear out of Japan.
    • Team Shanghai Alice, a one-man operation.
    • Even Bungie, which is still pretty small compared to other game companies, only had seven members when they made Marathon, which, coincidentally, had a theme song by "The Power of Seven." Before Marathon, Bungie consisted of two people who worked on games in their basements.
    • Dwarf Fortress is an incredibly intricate and detailed game with head-crushing complexity, featuring damage systems detailed down to individual tissue layers and random dwarf generation that is more complex than most roleplaying games' entire player character generators. It's a text game (although it did get a version with graphics in late 2022, by which point it was 20 years old or so) whose sheer depth of processing can crush a computer that can run Far Cry 3. This game is programmed by a lone individual, known as Toady One.
  • The modern postindustrial service economy has made it completely possible for a few guys to create a multi-billion dollar tech company in their basements.
    • As noted, Mojang started with just one person and never had more than a few full-time workers before it was sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion.
    • The cross-platform messaging system WhatsApp was founded in 2009 by Brian Acton and Jan Koum, who eventually brought a handful of friends on to the project. By 2013, over 400 million people were using the service, and in early 2014 it was sold to Facebook for $19 billion.
    • Skype, most famous for creating the video call application of the same name, was founded by Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström, with the Skype software itself originally developed by Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu, and Jaan Tallinn, who together with Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström were also behind the peer-to-peer file-sharing software Kazaa. It took less than two years for Skype to be valued in the billions; in 2005, Ebay bought Skype for $2.5 billion in cash and stock plus additional performance-based compensation.
    • The crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, originally started by San Diego residents Brad Damphousse and Andrew Ballester in 2010, sold for $600 million in 2015 after being used by tens of millions of people to raise billions in crowdfunding through its services. It has only grown bigger since then, with $100 million in revenue in 2016 and an estimated value of $1 billion as of 2019. It is currently more than twice the size of the world's next-largest crowdfunding site, Kickstarter. All with only 60 staffers at its HQ and 165 total employees (most of whom work in the customer service team in San Diego that returns emails and phone calls).
  • The Knights Templar began, supposedly, as a band of just nine knights whose ostensible goal was to protect pilgrims traveling in the Holy Land.
  • Jack Daniel's (the drink) counts as one of these. Despite being one of the most profitable and iconic alcoholic drinks out there, only 365 actually work for and produce the drink at a single distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. And (famous Scottish distillery) Glenmorangie's tagline "Handcrafted by the Sixteen Men of Tain" is more or less literal.
  • The Mafia. At any given time, there are fewer than 1,000 "made men" in the United States. Most cities that are not New York City or Chicago will have fewer than 20. Of course, each of them will have a small army of wannabes, thugs, and other followers (the majority of whom are not considered prospects to ever be "made"), plus employees in any legitimate businesses they run.
  • Invoked and subverted by various historic nomad empires. Many nomadic tribes were small in population but could muster larger armies than sedentary populations because most of their fighting-age men could be mobilized to fight. For example, the Mongols during Genghis Khan's rule probably had a population of less than a million, but his army, at its height (for the invasion of Khwarezmid Persia), numbered about a quarter of a million men or more, which, although not huge, was a quite large force for the Middle Ages. Of course, this also means that, if a nomad army is defeated, the whole tribe can wither away very fast.
  • Britain's equivalent of "Project Blue Book", monitoring UFO sightings and assessing which could be explained and which were an inexplicable residue that baffled analysis, consisted of one civil servant supported by a part-time secretary to do his typing...
  • Uruguay was a focus of conflict between Brazil and Argentina even before they were independent (from the Portuguese and Spanish colonial empires respectively). Brazil annexed it in 1820, while the bulk of the Argentine armies were crossing the Andes to carry the independence war to Chile, and the few remaining forces were in a civil war with Artigas. In 1825, after the independence war had been settled, Juan Antonio Lavalleja and Manuel Oribe invaded the now Brazilian province and started an insurrection... leading a group of just 33 people, the Thirty-Three Orientals. The following war led to the birth of Uruguay as an independent nation, not being a province of some other county.
  • Walter Lantz's animation studio was never huge by the industry standards, but at its peak, it did still employ multiple directors. By 1971, however, the number of staff shrunk to about 20, including just one director, two animators, and their assistants. The studio closed down a year later.
  • The Third Section of His Imperial Majesty's Own Chancellery, the Secret Police of the Russian Empire from 1825 to 1880, only ever had between 16 and 40 full-time agents to conduct investigations and a few hundred gendarmes to carry out arrests and other dirty business. Note that even in 1825, the Russian Empire had a population of over 40 million and covered an area the size of...well...Russia, stretching almost literally halfway around the world from Poland to Alaska. Even European Russia dwarfed the largest European states in both population and land area (to give you an idea, in the 1870s, European Russia alone had thee to four times the land area of Germany, France, and Austria-Hungary combined). It should thus come as no surprise that when the Imperial government decided to replace the Third Section with the Okhrana, they also decided the new agency needed to be much better-staffed.
  • The comic book studio Mirage Studios, responsible for the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic that spawned a multimedia franchise, was run solely by its creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird at the time of its creation, so the very name is practically a Lampshade Hanging on their part. This applied less when they hired more people and assistant artists.
  • South Park Studios, run by Trey Parker and Matt Stone to create South Park, handles almost the entirety of the production with a staff of 40 or so people. The reason is they embraced advancing technology and the Stylistic Suck of their own work to be able to make an episode in as little as six days, an episode will be halfway animated before the script is finished, and with most characters voiced by Parker and Stone the smallest alterations can be done in just a few hours.

Alternative Title(s): A Half Dozen Guys In A Basement, Oddly Small Organisation